July 25, 2024

Pilot narrowly avoids crashing Southwest flight into Pacific Ocean by 400 feet

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Travelers on a Southwest Airlines flight between islands in Hawaii encountered a nerve-wracking adventure in April as the aircraft descended and approached within 400 feet of plunging into the Pacific Ocean. The FAA is currently looking into the reasons behind why Southwest Flight 2786 almost made contact with the water, as reported by USA Today discloses. Nonetheless, the airline assured the publication that the situation was handled appropriately.

The relatively brief Southwest flight took off from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu and journeyed 100 miles northwest to Lihue Airport. An internal memorandum obtained by Bloomberg outlined the unusual chain of events following an aborted landing. A less experienced first officer accidentally pushed the control column of the Boeing 737 Max 8 forward, causing the plane to dive at a rate exceeding 4,000 feet per minute. This speed was faster than a typical descent but still within the aircraft’s certification limits.

Subsequently, the flight crew executed what the memorandum described as a “roller-coaster maneuver” to pull the Boeing back up from its descent. The pilots increased thrust and ascended at a rate of 8,500 feet per minute. Fortunately, there were no injuries reported.

This incident over the Pacific Ocean was not the sole close call for a Southwest flight in April. Another flight was authorized to cross a runway at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. just moments before air traffic control cleared a JetBlue flight to take off on the same runway. Luckily, a controller detected the error and halted both planes within 400 feet of each other to avoid a potential collision.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What caused the Southwest Airlines flight to come within 400 feet of crashing into the Pacific Ocean?

The FAA is investigating the incident to determine the exact reasons behind the close call.

2. Were there any injuries reported as a result of the near-crash?

No, there were no injuries reported due to the incident.

3. How did the flight crew manage to avert disaster?

The pilots performed a “roller-coaster maneuver” to pull the aircraft out of its rapid descent and safely regain altitude.


Despite the harrowing experience faced by passengers on Southwest Flight 2786, the quick thinking and decisive actions of the flight crew prevented a potential catastrophe. The investigation into the incident will provide valuable insights to ensure the safety and security of future flights.

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