A pilot on a Hawaiian Airlines flight says a plume-shaped cloud ‘pulled’ past the plane moments before severe turbulence that injured more than two dozen people and damaged the plane for the month last, federal officials said Friday.
The pilot, captain of the Dec. 18 flight from Phoenix to Honolulu, said conditions were smooth and the onboard weather radar showed no turbulence as he flew above a layer of cirrostratus at a altitude between 37,000 and 38,000 feet, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report on the incident.
Just after 10 a.m., when the flight was 40 minutes from landing, a “cloud rose vertically (like a plume of smoke) in front of the aircraft within seconds, and there was no enough time to deviate,” the report said. .
The pilot informed the lead flight attendant of the incoming weather, and within 1 to 3 seconds the plane – an Airbus A330 – plunged into what the report described as “severely convection-induced turbulence”, indicates the report.
“Shortly after the turbulence-related upset, the senior flight attendant advised the flight crew that there were multiple injuries in the cabin,” the report said.
According to the report, satellite images later reviewed by the report’s authors showed strong cells associated with a storm system moving towards Hawaii that were close to the flight path.
No other pilots had reported severe weather in the area prior to the incident, the report said.
Of the 291 passengers and crew aboard the Hawaiian Airlines flight, 25 people had cuts, bruises, nausea and head injuries, officials said at the time.
Six of the injured were serious, according to the report. Damage to the aircraft was described in the report as minor.
Eric Mendoza contributed.