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FAA investigating Southwest Airlines plane plunge

By Mike Heuer
A Southwest 737 Max 8 airliner plunged suddenly due to apparent operator error during a short island-hopping flight in Hawaii on April 11. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
A Southwest 737 Max 8 airliner plunged suddenly due to apparent operator error during a short island-hopping flight in Hawaii on April 11. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

June 15 (UPI) -- A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft came within 400 feet of the Pacific Ocean during an island-hopping flight on April 11.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident in which no passengers or crew were injured as the aircraft plunged from about 1,000 feet to 400 feet above sea level in seconds.

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Although the incident happened on April 11, it wasn't revealed publicly until the airline recently circulated a memo among its pilots regarding the issue.

FAA officials said they immediately were made aware of the incident.

The airline's memo said a relatively inexperienced first officer was flying the plane and accidentally pushed a control forward before correcting the problem.

The plane decreased its speed, which caused it to plunge toward the ocean until alarms warned of coming too close to the water.

The plane's captain then ordered the first officer to increase engine thrust, which caused the plane to rise quickly at a rate of 8,500 feet per minute.

The aircraft climbed rapidly after coming within 400 feet of the sea.

The flight was traveling from Honolulu to nearby Kauai but returned to Honolulu due to bad weather.

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Southwest officials reminded the airline's pilots to closely monitor respective flights and said improved communications among crew members help prevent such incidents.

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