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Southwest Airlines pilot apparently tells passengers ‘We’re going down’

As his plane made a rapid descent to normalize cabin pressure, a Southwest Airlines pilot went on the plane’s loudspeaker and apparently told passengers the aircraft was going down.

“At first it sounded like someone was coming over the PA to talk. Then it sounded like shots through the cabin, twice, back to back,” passenger Grace Stroud told CNN. “Seconds later, the panicked captain said, ‘We’re in trouble; we’re going down.’”

Another passenger, Shelley Wills, told CNN affiliate WTVD that the pilot made the remarks as the plane went into a nosedive when it neared the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

“He said, ‘We’re going down.’ And everyone is looking around like, ‘Is this a joke? Is he serious?’ And then you felt the nosedive.”

Soon after, the Boeing 737 leveled out and made an emergency landing at the Raleigh airport.

Asked about the WTVD report, a Southwest spokeswoman said it was inaccurate.

“Our pilot said he was descending to 10,000 feet. The report was not accurate from this customer. We landed safely,” spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger told CNN.

But in an e-mail the airline sent Stroud, it acknowledged what Stroud suspected may have happened.

“As the captain was communicating his plan with the flight attendants, he inadvertently activated the PA system in the cabin,” the e-mail said. “We sincerely regret any confusion caused by the relay of the information.”

Southwest Airlines Flight 3426 had taken off from Tampa, Florida, and was headed to Raleigh. As it approached its destination, the pilot noticed a loss of cabin pressure — prompting him to make a earlier-than-usual descent.

“As the checklist mandates when there is a pressurization issue, our captain did communicate with flight attendants over the PA that he was initiating a descent to a lower altitude,” Eichinger said. “The issue resolved itself, which is also not uncommon, and the aircraft landed normally at Raleigh-Durham.”

For her part, Stroud said, “I know what I heard.”

She said she talked to others seated around her, and they all agreed they heard the pilot say the same thing.

The FAA says it is investigating the incident.

For the “uneasy feelings” the experience may have caused her, Stroud was offered a voucher good toward a future flight.

8 comments

  • M

    Cabin pressure fault light illuminated. QUick reaction handbook says to switch to alternate if unsuccessful switch to manual then to begin descent under 12k ft to prevent cabin oxygen masks from deploying. Not once were the pax at risk. While managing the situation with his crew the captain inadvertantly switched to p/a instead of inter phone. This woman needs to relax a bit.

    Legacy carrier mechanic

  • M

    “Panicked captain” seriously? These guys are the furthest thing from panicky. Assertive and decisive could be misconstrued as panicky by people such as this woman I suppose. The problem usually is fixed by resetting a circuit breaker or replacing a controller the size of your toaster. The media are chicken littles for sure.

  • Dianne

    Don’t know about anyone else but if I was on this flight and heard the Captain make this comment I would have been freaking out. The Captain needs to make sure who’s he talking to before making this kind of comment!

    • Phil

      No Dianne, in an emergency the Captain needs to fly the Plane not worry about his statement and what intercom he is on.

  • Fran

    I can see it now. She’ll sue for “emotional distress”. She probably shouldn’t fly anymore and take the train or car. I hope she’s reading this too.You may have been scared and all but you didn’t crash and you’re still here. You should be thankful and not looking for publicity and saying you “won’t fly this airline again”. That’s your choice and we don’t care. Please don’t think you’re entitled to any sort of compensation for this and if you do, I hope you lose.

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