News

Hawaiian Airlines HNL-ITO Flight Loses Cabin Pressure

April 10, 2019, 10:38 AM HST
* Updated April 11, 6:30 AM
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A Hawai‘i Island resident contacted BigIslandNow.com with a story of what he described as a harrowing flight from O‘ahu to Hilo, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Big Island resident Jim Wyban relayed that Hawaiian Airlines Flight HA 552 took off from O‘ahu at about 8:30, and along the way, “took a radical nosedive towards the sea.”

About midway in the flight, Wyban said the cabin got really cold (less than 60°F, he estimated).

“The plane began losing altitude—like I have never experienced on a plane and I’ve flown hundreds of commercial flights all over the world,” Wyban said. “The plane was noticeably headed downward as the cabin was seriously tilted towards the front.”

The oxygen masks dropped and the flight attendants said to put them on and remain seated, Wyban said.

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“People were a little freaking out,” he said. “When the oxygen masks dropped, I believed we were headed for an ocean crash.”

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Although he said he is not an alarmist and a good swimmer, he was certain they were going down.

“After about five to eight minutes of this rapid decent—ears popping—the pilot leveled the plane,” Wyban.

Shortly thereafter, Wyban said the plane landed in Hilo without ever regaining elevation.

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When they landed on the runway, they were surrounded by fire engines, he said.

“The Hilo Airport runway was lined with fire trucks in full alert and red lights whirling,” he said. “The plane sat on the runway for about 10 to 15 minutes as firemen inspected all around the plane. We eventually went to the gate where we deplaned with no explanation about what happened.”

“It was a frightening experience and what news was released last night was inaccurate,” Wyban said. “Their report really understates the severity of the event and a more substantial investigation should be required.”

“They said it was a ‘loss of pressure event.’” Wyban said. “It was much more than that.”

The passengers aboard were all traumatized, Wyban said.

He said it was similar to the crashes of Boeing’s new planes that he has read about recently.

“It seemed like we were experiencing what has been described for the MAX 8 crashes—the nose was headed down and couldn’t be corrected,” said Wyban.

“People should be aware of this incident, Wyban said. “It’s a public safety issue. Hawaiian needs to explain and be held accountable.”

Tim Sakahara, State of Hawaii Department of Transportation public information officer, confirmed with Big Island Now this morning that “Hawaiian Airlines Flight 552 from HNL landed safely with no injuries at ITO on Monday, April 8. HDOT Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) and the Hawai‘i County Fire Department responded as a precaution.”

He told Big Island Now to refer to the airline for additional details regarding the flight.

Hawaiian Airlines Senior Manager of External Communications Alex Da Silva said in an email that he was investigating the incident and would contact Big Island Now this morning with official information about the cause of the incident.

At 10:30 a.m. today, Da Silva issued a statement regarding the flight.

“HA552, carrying 46 passengers and five crewmembers, departed Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport at 7:43 p.m. on Monday with service to Hilo International Airport (ITO). Approximately 20 minutes before landing, a component that affects cabin pressure malfunctioned, causing passengers’ oxygen masks to automatically deploy.

“Following standard operating procedure during depressurization events, the captain began a controlled descent to a lower altitude, while declaring an emergency to coordinate priority handling as the flight continued to ITO, where the Boeing 717 aircraft landed without incident at 8:17 p.m.” Da Silva continued.

“The safety of our passengers is our priority, and we sincerely apologize for this event,” Da Silva said. “We understand this was a very uncomfortable experience, but our pilot’s swift actions were necessary to quickly stabilize cabin pressure.

“Following Monday’s incident, we ferried the aircraft to Honolulu, where we conducted a thorough inspection and resolved the issue,” Da Silva said.

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