Flight takes sudden, violent plummet while cruising over the Pacific
On April 25, Kevin Townsend was flying high above the Pacific towards California when his plane suddenly and violently plummeted.
Recalling the experience in a post on Medium, he wrote, "It was like being in freefall.'
He later learned from the pilots that the freefall was very intentional; in fact, the United Airlines Boeing 757 was just 20 seconds away from a potential collision with another commercial flight in the same flight path.
ABC recounted the story:
"I was flying from Kona on the western side of Big Island and connecting through LAX to go home to San Francisco. We climbed up, looped around the Big Island, and reached cruising altitude, and stayed there for 5 or 10 or even 15 minutes," Townsend told ABC News today.
"All of a sudden out of nowhere, the plane cuts into a steep dive," he said.
"It was like being on an elevator dropping really quickly. You start to fall with gravity, not like in a fighter jet pressed up against your seat. It was like being in freefall. It was kind of exhilarating, like you're weightless," he said.
The sensation lasted five or six seconds, he said, during which a few passengers around him began screaming. His mind raced through the possibilities of what could be happening.
"It was so sudden that it seemed like something had gone wrong, because you don't expect that at all. But there was no sound involved and the plane didn't seem to be out of control. It was tough to conceive of why it happened. Your body thinks, 'did the engines just go out and we're diving into the ocean?' But then you feel like this is somewhat controlled," he explained.
After the drop, Townsend said a flight attendant took to the loud speaker and said 'Well, that was unexpected."
American airlines issued this statement following the incident:
"The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority. We are working with the authorities as they look into what may have happened."
The FAA's Pacific Division announced yesterday, May 15, 2014, they'd sent a team to investigate and would be releasing a report soon.