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FAA investigating Southwest flight that came within 400 feet of crashing into the ocean


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By Gregory Wallace and Ross Levitt, CNN

New York (CNN) — A federal investigation is underway after a Southwest Airlines flight plunged toward the ocean off the coast of a Hawaiian island.

The incident occurred April 11 aboard Southwest Flight 2786, but only came to light publicly on Friday after Bloomberg reported Southwest sent a memo to pilots about the incident. Bloomberg reported the memo indicated a “newer” first officer was flying at the time and inadvertently pushed forward on the control column.

Flight tracking data from ADS-B Exchange shows the plane dropping at a rate of more than 4,000 feet per minute while only 600 feet above sea level. The Boeing 737 Max 8 flew as low as 400 feet before rapidly climbing.

“Nothing is more important to Southwest than Safety,” the airline said. “Through our robust Safety Management System, the event was addressed appropriately as we always strive for continuous improvement.”

In a brief statement to CNN, Southwest acknowledged the incident but did not address the memo or why the incident took place.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it learned of the incident immediately and opened an investigation.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association has not commented.

The flight was an inter-island hop from the main Honolulu airport to Lihue airport on the neighboring island of Kauai. The internal memo said the pilots decided to abort a landing there in bad weather, according to Bloomberg.

Tracking data shows the plane then returned to Honolulu.

In December 2022, a United Airlines flight departing a different Hawaiian airport also dove toward the ocean in bad weather, coming 748 feet from disaster, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB concluded the pilots miscommunicated about the settings of the airplane’s flaps. The NTSB has not yet said whether it will investigate this latest incident.

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