A cloud rose vertically like a plume of smoke in a matter of seconds before a Hawaiian Airlines flight last month ran into severe turbulence and injured 25 people on board, according to a preliminary report from the National Safety Board in the Transport.
The captain of the Dec. 18 flight from Phoenix to Honolulu told investigators that flight conditions had been calm with clear skies when the cloud shot up in front of the plane and there was no time to change course, according to the report.
He called the head flight attendant and told her there might be turbulence. Within one to three seconds, the plane “encountered severe turbulence,” the report states.
Shortly thereafter, the chief flight attendant told the crew that there were multiple injuries in the passenger cabin.
Of the 291 passengers and crew on board, 25 were injured, including four passengers and two crew who were seriously injured, the report says. The aircraft sustained minor damage.
Tiffany Reyes, one of the passengers taken to hospitals, said the next day that she had just returned to her bathroom seat and was about to buckle up when the flight went down.
In an instant, Reyes said she found herself on the floor of the hallway, staring at sagging ceiling tiles and a dangling broken bathroom sign.
“I asked everyone around me, ‘Was that me?’” Reyes said. “They said that I apparently flew into the ceiling and crashed to the ground.”
Reyes said he initially thought something had hit the plane and it was crashing, and that they were going to die, because he had never encountered anything so violent on a flight.
“That is the most terrifying experience I have had in my 40 years of life,” Reyes said.
Hawaiian Airlines chief operating officer Jon Snook said at the time that such turbulence was unusual, noting that the airline had not experienced anything like it in recent history. The fasten seatbelt sign was on at the time.