Airbus Evasive Maneuver Frightens Passengers

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The maneuver by an Airbus 319 crew over Michigan on Monday, briefly diving the jet in response to a TCAS warning, may seem routine to aviators, but it's been getting a lot of coverage in the mainstream press, citing terrified passengers and jostled flight attendants. "Screaming passengers feared the plane was going to crash," says the Associated Press story. No passengers were injured, but luggage bins fell open, drinks spilled, and a couple of flight attendants hit their heads. The FAA said at their closest point, the Airbus was within 400 feet vertically and 1.6 miles horizontally from a skydiving jump plane operating VFR over southern Michigan.

The Airbus had launched from Detroit, bound for Dallas-Fort Worth. "Air traffic controllers notified the Spirit pilot that a skydiving jump plane was climbing just south of the jetliner's position," FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said in an email to the AP. "The Spirit pilot confirmed that he could see the smaller aircraft on his [TCAS]. ... A minute later, the Spirit jet received an automated TCAS warning that required him to begin an immediate 1,600-foot descent to 12,800 feet from a previous altitude of 14,400 feet." The crew gave no warning of the unexpected dive, passenger Janet Dunnabeck told the AP. "It was horrifying," she said. "Every person on that plane was screaming. We thought we were going down."