A Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Tawau last week reportedly dropped 7,000 feet in a matter of seconds, frightening the passengers and causing the plane to turn back to KL.
According to a report in The New Straits Times, Malaysia Airlines flight MH2664, a Boeing 737-800, was half an hour into its flight as it experienced a sudden drop.
One passenger took to social media after the flight to say the 7,000 feet dive made several passengers “float” off their seats.
The aircraft, which was cruising over the South China Sea at the time of the descent, was flying at about 30,000 feet prior to its drop, according to RadarBox.com.
The overall descent was about 17,000 feet over the course of ten minutes.
Malaysia Airlines said the incident was due to a “technical issue.”
RadarBox.com showed the plane between Tioman Island and Pulau Jemaja as it turned around. The aircraft circled the capital several times before landing safely.
The airline said the plane experienced technical issues during bad weather and that the pilots’ decision to turn back to KL was a precautionary measure.
“Flight MH2664 from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau on April 3 performed an air turn back because of technical issues with the aircraft, compounded by bad weather en route,” a statement from Malaysia Airlines said.
“The aircraft landed safely at KLIA at 5.03 pm. The safety of our crew and passengers remains of utmost importance to Malaysia Airlines.”
The pilots were praised online for their handling of the situation and deciding to turn around.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia said the pilots appeared to have responded correctly and they’ll be examining the plane’s internal flight data monitoring system.
But what caused the sudden drop?
According to Simple Flying a likely reason is a pocket of turbulence, or sometimes referred to as an ‘air pocket.’ This is when a region of low pressure causes an aircraft to lose height suddenly because of the downdraft’s impact on the aircraft.
An incident like this can cause a huge amount of distress and panic amongst the passengers. The report in the New Strait Times said that people were screaming, crying, and fearing for their lives.
This particular aircraft has run relatively trouble-free for Malaysia Airlines.
A 2017 flight between Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur using the same plane also initiated an emergency descent. The cabin did not pressurize properly, and the passenger oxygen masks had not deployed.
Since last weeks incident, the aircraft has remained on the ground in Kuala Lumpur.