“Panic in the Sky. Delta Flight Plunges Nearly 30,000 Feet’. NOT.

I was mindlessly skimming through my Facebook feed today looking for aviation relevant topics as Imelda relentlessly diluges outside my window when I came across a fear invoking headline.


Yikes! Well, that caught my eye. Of course, it was supposed to. It was on the feed of a dear friend who already has an (understandable) fear of flying, and she will most certainly be adding this harrowing incident to her list of reasons why she should rationalize that fear.

GRRRRRRRRR! Fluffy. Does. Not Approve.

Good, freaking grief! This is nothing more than a prime example of media fear driven click bait – and every reason why I have come to despise mainstream media with passion. Can we please lay off the fear mongering and just tell the truth? Ugh.

I knew the moment I read the headline it was a bunch of trash. But my friend (and probably everyone else that read it by the millions) was frightened by the idea – and who could blame them?? It would scare me too if I believed even for a second that it was true! So I opened up the link, my mood already as dark as the Tropical Storm darkened skies outside, and read the stupid article so that I could dispel her fears with truth. I was right – trash.

I also took it to my husband who is both a long-time Captain and SIM trainer to verify my suspicions. Yep, the article is nothing more than an attempt to click bait an audience using fear as an incentive. Disgusting, right? I think so, anyway.

So let’s look at the facts as stated in said article in order:

1. “Flight Aware shows how Flight 2353 to Fort Lauderdale diverted to Tampa instead. Key words: Flight Aware. I love flight aware as much as the next Pilot Wife! I love watching his little green plane bleep happily across the screen. I love showing the kids [approximately] where he is in the great wide horizon. Love it! Appreciate it. But it is not foolproof tech. Sometimes Flight Aware has mini-pauses in data streaming or tracking glitches, and the numerical values simply must be taken with a grain of salt. So…when they say a plane went from 29K to 10K very abruptly…I never panic. Heck, my husband’s entire flight has ‘disappeared’ from Flight Aware on more than one occasion. I assure you he is still alive and well. Look, the data they instated doesn’t really mean anything. It’s not exact science. It’s merely a nice site that gives you a close whereabouts of a plane. Nothing more; nothing less. But you know what…in this case just for the sake of good argument…let’s go ahead and pretend that the numbers are exactly always 100% reliable….

2. “According to the website, the plane descended from 39,000 feet to 10,000 in less than seven minutes.” Wait…what?? I almost laughed out loud at this when I read it! Is anyone else with me here? That is far, far, FAR from the terrifying ‘plunge‘ scenario touted by the headline! I consider a ‘plunge’ a sudden and large unexpected drop in altitude, such as when a plane hits an air pocket or there is a big down draft. Sure, a plane can drop several thousand feet (albeit not 30K) when that happens and our tummy’s can end up in our throats (or in mine and my kids’ case, we all yell ‘WOOOOO HOOOOOO,” really enthusiastically while the other passengers grip their armrests in duress). You see, what this particular plane did is descend, and that is a far cry from plunge. Even more ridiculous is that the plane was not even descending at an exceptionally fast rate of speed. A normal descent (based upon my husband’s plane, but it is relevant enough) is approximately 3,000 feet per minute. So, let’s do the math. 29k/7min=@4,000 ft/min. While a slightly faster than average rate of descent to be certain (necessary for the diversion in this case) there is nothing terrifying about the rate. The occupants in the plane would likely not even know that they were descending faster than normal if they weren’t so informed. There’s no suitcase flying, head bumping, galley cart scooting excitement going on here in these numbers. It’s just another landing on just another plane. In fact…an emergency descent rate (in my husband’s particular plane) is nearly DOUBLE the rate of this descent. Now 7-8 k/ft per minute? That the passengers would notice. As my pilot said, “Those pilots were probably having fun at that speed! But there was nothing scary or emergent about the descent. The oxygen masks wouldn’t even deploy for that rate of descent at all.” But wait…

3. Air masks, the oxygen masks dropped from the top of the plane. Chaos sort of ensued amongst the passengers, Well, that doesn’t click with his statement? Oh, man! Do I ever LOVE [not] how they put this particular fact third in the line, to make it somehow seem as though the oxygen mask deployment was initiated by the terrifying ‘plunging’ (which we now know is fictitious and didn’t actually even happen…). Let’s all say it together now…Fear mongering. There is a distinct difference in the order of events here that we must take into consideration and which slightly greatly changes the implications of the headline. The oxygen masks were deployed before the descent even began. Before. The oxygen masks’ deployment was in no way dependent upon the rate of descent; however, conversely the rate of descent was dependent upon the oxygen masks’ deployment. Huge difference. There was, indeed, a depressurization in the cabin (undetermined reason) which caused the oxygen masks to deploy. Because of said depressurization, the pilots procedurally declared an emergency and then steadily descended (not plunged) the standard, FAR recommended elevation for such situations. Then they safely continued descent into the airport they were diverted to as a precaution. Can I just remind you here that they (the entire crew) are heavily trained for this minor stuff (and the major too)? At no time during this scenario and normal descent rate would the pilots or flight crew have been out of control of the situation. Good grief. This headline is sounding sillier and sillier by the minute, isn’t it?

4. “Panic in the sky.” I can absolutely guarantee you that at no time were the pilots or flight crew panicked by this less than noteworthy incident. They were completely calm and under control and were probably not even worried or concerned about the safety of the aircraft or it’s occupants. This was a real non-situation blown out of proportion. I promise, they’ve got this. They are highly-trained professionals; trust them. Yeah, a few passengers were probably a little scared. Duh. That’s kind of what happens when oxygen masks deploy. They automatically think worst case scenario and get a little freaked out. I mean, hey fear-mongering media (clears throat)...I wonder WHY?????

So let’s aptly re-headline the media article to fit the actualization of what happened instead of fear baiting.

“Talent in the Skies: Pilots Descend at a Normal Rate of Speed and Safely Land Airplane with Absolutely no Complications.”

Of course, I guess the truth doesn’t scare people into reading articles, huh?

Oh, and by the way Delta crew, great job! Props to you for doing your job well.

Angelia (a fellow Pilot Wife)


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