Pilot Plunges Plane 600 Feet To Avoid In-Air Crash

A passenger describes his experience on a United flight when the pilot suddenly dropped the plan 600 feet to avoid colliding with another plane.

Pilot Plunges Plane 600 Feet To Avoid In-Air Crash
Wikimedia Commons / Luis Argerich

It could have been the deadliest plane crash in the world to date, but thankfully, one pilot's quick reflexes saved the lives of hundreds of passengers on two planes that were headed straight toward each other.

"It happened last month between a United flight and a US Airways plane. Flight data showed the United flight was cruising at 33,000 feet and suddenly dropped 600 feet to avoid a head-on collision." (Via KERO)

PILOT: "We've got an emergency descent going."

​ANCHOR: "At 11:16 in the evening, the United Airlines Flight 1205 can be heard initiating an abrupt emergency dive."

​PILOT: "A plane just popped right at our altitude." (Via CBS)

There were about 295 people on board the United flight, and the one headed directly for it most likely had a similar number of passengers. (Via KVOA)

To say this was a close call is an understatement. 

​"Now, at a distance of just 5 miles and at a speed of 600 miles per hour, the pilot would have had just 15 seconds to act." (Via KSBY)

At the time of the free fall, the passengers were caught without warning as the plane dropped 600 feet in the course of several seconds. (Via WSVN)

KEVIN TOWNSEND: "It suddenly cut into this steep dive. Passengers started screaming. There was a kid behind me who started crying. It was noisy and violent and really terrifying." (Via KNTV)

Kevin Townsend was a passenger on the United flight. He wrote an essay for the blog platform Medium to describe the experience and look for answers.

"​I was weightless. We all were. Thirty-three thousand feet up in a cloudless sky, our plane had suddenly pitched into a steep dive. I felt my body float upwards and strain against my seatbelt. ... The violence was over after a few seconds." (Via Medium)

Townsend said an airline attendant later explained the pilot had to make "elusive maneuvers" to avoid a collision, and the passengers were offered free in-flight entertainment. The FAA is now launching an investigation into the event.