Southwest Airlines flight to Hawaiian island plunges, comes within 400 feet of Pacific Ocean: Report

The Boeing aircraft dropped from approximately 16,000 feet to just 400 feet above the Pacific Ocean

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft came within 400 feet of slamming into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai after weather conditions forced pilots to swiftly change course. 

A Southwest Airlines memo to pilots, obtained by Bloomberg News, detailed Southwest Flight 2786 from the April 11 flight from Honolulu International Airport to Lihue Airport in Kauai.

Passengers were left white-knuckled after the aircraft dropped from nearly 16,000 feet to an altitude of 409 feet.


A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet departs from San Diego International Airport en route to Denver on January 13, 2024 in San Diego, California.  (Kevin Carter/Getty Images)

According to the Southwest memo, the incident occurred following an aborted landing attempt due to bad weather that blocked pilots from seeing the runway at the specified altitude.

The memo noted that the captain opted to put the "newer" first officer in command of the 100-mile interisland flight, despite the pending weather.

The less-experienced first officer "inadvertently" pushed forward on the control column, which controls the plane's pitch and roll, then cut the speed, causing the airplane to rapidly descend. 

The Makua Reef, Tunnels Beach and the Haena Beach Park

The Makua Reef, Tunnels Beach and the Haena Beach Park on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii. (Photo by: Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images) (Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The pilot's aggressive movement prompted the warning system to sound the alarm that the passenger aircraft was getting too close to the terrain.


The memo said that the captain ordered the first officer to increase thrust – prompting the aircraft to "climb aggressively" at 8,500 feet per minute.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 aircraft

Southwest Airlines Co is the largest low-cost carrier in the world with headquarters in Dallas, Texas and a fleet of 802 Boeing 737 planes. (Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The interisland flight, which should have been approximately 22 minutes long, departed Honolulu at 6:45 p.m., but following the incident, the plane returned to Honolulu at 8:09 p.m.

No one was injured during the hair-raising ride.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said that "the event was addressed appropriately."

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

The Federal Aviation Administration told Fox News Digital that it is "investigating the incident."

United Airlines

A United Airlines Boeing 777 flight, in Dec. 2022, plunged 775 feet. (United Airlines)

The Southwest incident is reminiscent of the United Airlines Boeing 777 Dreamliner plunge incident which occurred off Maui in 2022.

The Boeing 777-200 reached an altitude of 2,200 feet about a minute after takeoff from Maui on Dec. 18, 2022, before plunging to 775 feet above sea level nearly 20 seconds later.

"After landing at SFO, the pilots filed the appropriate safety report," a United Airlines spokesman told FOX Business in a statement. "United then closely coordinated with the FAA and ALPA [Air Line Pilots Association] on an investigation that ultimately resulted in the pilots receiving additional training. Safety remains our highest priority."

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