Spirit Airlines Airbus Evasive Dive Scares Passengers

A Spirit Airlines flight departing Detroit got too close to a skydiving jump plane, causing the pilots to descend abruptly. The Airbus reportedly descended 1,600 feet in a short period of time, lifting passengers off their seats and causing flight attendants to hit their heads on the ceiling.

The pilots had been advised by controllers of the jump plane’s position, and had it in view on TCAS, according to news reports.

Separation was reported as 400 feet vertical and 1.6 miles horizontal at the closest point. The Airbus was at 14,400 feet when it received a TCAS resolution advisory (RA) to descend immediately to 12,800 feet. Spirit said its pilots reacted according to procedures. The FAA is investigating whether or not the evasive maneuver was safe or not, though pilots are required to follow RAs regardless of whether they have spotted the conflicting traffic visually, though they must do so without jeopardizing the safety of the flight.

National news reports included interviews with passengers who described screaming and crying in the cabin as the airliner descended rapidly. One passenger told the Associated Press, “It was horrifying. We thought we were going down.”

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Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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