DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a close call between a Texas-bound Spirit Airlines flight and a skydiving plane that forced the jetliner to dive sharply over Michigan.
Passenger Janet Dunnabeck of Whitney, Texas, called the near-miss experience “horrifying,” saying screaming passengers feared the plane was going down.
“People were flying up and down in their seats and the overhead compartments were popping open and items falling out,” she told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Sandra McNeil.
“We thought we were dying — that was it. And I can assure you that everybody on that plane thought the same thing. People were screaming and crying …we thought that was it,” Dunnabeck said. “The flight attendants did not have their seat belts on, so they literally hit the ceiling … hit their heads a couple times.”
Dunnabeck’s two daughters, including 19-year-old Gabrielle Maschke, we also on board. “I mean, we all thought that it was going to be the last moments of our life, because we were in such a deep nosedive and we were being thrown around on the plane,” Maschke said.
The FAA said the Sunday evening flight with 126 passengers was heading from Detroit to Dallas-Fort Worth when controllers reported another plane nearby.
The FAA said the Spirit jet then got an automated warning to immediately descend 1,600 feet. It said, at their closest point, the planes were about 1.6 miles apart horizontally and 400 feet vertically away from each other.
No passengers were injured, said Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson.
“Our pilots followed appropriate procedures and adjusted their flight path upon receiving an advisory of another possible aircraft in range,” Pinson said in an email. “The flight continued to Dallas/Fort Worth without incident.”
Addressing why the two planes got dangerously close, the FAA pointed to the smaller plane’s pilot.
“The skydiving plane was flying under Visual Flight Rules, under which pilots are responsible for seeing and avoiding other aircraft,” Cory said.
Dunnabeck said it all happened without warning, but the pilot explained the dive afterward.
She doesn’t blame the pilot for what happened — but wants answers.
“Somebody made a huge error and put people’s lives at risk and terrified people,” Dunnabeck said.
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