Southwest Pilot: "We're Going Down!"
A Southwest Airlines pilot has perhaps learned to choose his words more carefully after a depressurization incident on flight 3426 from Tampa to Raleigh.
Passengers reported hearing the captain come over the P.A. system and say, "We're going down," shortly before pushing the plane into a steep descent.
"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 said. "Seconds later, the panicked captain said, 'We're in trouble; we're going down.'"
"I'm sure everybody went through their private moments," Stroud said. "My moment was, 'OK, so this is how I'm going to die,' and 'At least it will be quick.'"
Another passenger, Shelley Wills, told TV station 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."
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 said.
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."
"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."
The FAA has said that they will be investigating the incident.
Passengers onboard the flight were given vouchers for a future flight on Southwest to make up for the confusion.