Southwest Airlines plane comes within 400 feet of crashing into ocean near Līhu’e Airport: Kauai Now

A Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger plane operated by Southwest Airlines plunged from about 1,000 feet at an alarmingly abnormal speed of more than 4,000 feet per minute off the coast of Kaua’i near Līhu’e Airport in April, coming within just 120 meters and a matter of seconds. to avoid crashing into the ocean before the crew pulled the plane up and climbed quickly to avoid a near disaster.

A Southwest Airlines plane mid-flight. One of the airline’s flights from Honolulu to Līhu’e was involved in an accident in April, causing the plane to crash into the ocean within 400 feet of the coast of Kaua’i during flight. (File photo)

The Federal Aviation Administration, following an investigation by Bloomberg News, is investigating the previously unreported accident. It happened after adverse weather conditions forced pilots to abort the landing at the Kaua’i airport because pilots could not see the runway.

The news source said in a June 14 story that Southwest sent a memo to pilots last week, seen by Bloomberg, discussing the narrowly averted ocean crash.

The plane returned safely to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, from where it departed.


No one was injured.

“Nothing is more important to Southwest than safety,” said a statement Southwest emailed to Bloomberg after questions about the Flight 2786 accident. “Our robust safety management system ensured the event was handled appropriately as we always strive for continuous improvement .”

Flight instructor and former commercial airline pilot Kit Darby reviewed data from the flight tracking website ADS-B Exchange and told Bloomberg that the jet pilot “was going up and down with the force and almost going out of control – very close. It would feel like a roller coaster ride.”


According to the Southwest memo, the plane’s captain had placed a less experienced first officer in command of the short flight to Līhu’e.

While following the throttle movement, caused by the aircraft’s automatic throttle, the co-pilot “inadvertently” pushed the control column forward. The first officer then reduced the aircraft’s speed, causing it to descend.

Shortly afterwards, a warning system started blaring, warning the pilots that the plane was getting too close to the surface. That prompted an order from the captain to increase thrust, after which the plane climbed at an aggressive rate of 8,500 feet per minute.


Landing flights usually descend early in their approach at a rate of 1,500 to 2,000 feet per minute, Darby said, and slow to 800 feet per minute when they are about 5 miles (8 km) from an airport.

Southwest has determined that proper pilot monitoring and better communication among crew members are critical. The company has committed to reviewing industry and internal training protocols and procedures.

A spokesperson told Bloomberg that the National Transportation Safety Board is not aware of the near disaster. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association did not comment.