Passenger Jet descended at 20,000 FPM!!


Well-Known Member
To me this sounds kind of dangerous, but then again I am not a pilot. (Yet)
Also, anyone know what aircraft it was?

CALGARY -- A minute-long nosedive by a plane which left Calgary International Airport had a Cochrane man praying for his life.

The Winnipeg-bound WestJet flight descended almost 6,100 metres (20,000 feet) in a one-minute span after encountering problems about 20 minutes after taking off from Calgary. The aircraft has since been taken out of service.

The plane plunged from a near-cruising altitude to 2,440 metres (8,000 feet) - dropping the aircraft's air masks from overhead compartments - before recovering and returning to Calgary.

"I felt the G-forces on my stomach, my chest ... all over my body," said John Perry, a Cochrane salesman and a passenger on Monday's flight.

"It took us 20 minutes to get up to more than 25,000 feet (7,620 metres) and only about one minute to come down."

Perry, a father of three- and five-year-olds, said the experience left him "making peace with God."

"I thought, 'Please forgive my sins' and 'look after my family,' " said Perry, who was flying to Winnipeg to visit a friend when the plane started to plummet.

He described the atmosphere as "eerie" and "surreal."

"But no one knew anything ... even the (flight attendants) didn't know what was going on."

Perry said most passengers turned to quiet reflection as the plane continued to drop.

"In the movies, you always hear people screaming and crying, but here it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop," said Perry.

A stiff 180-degree turn also added to the concern of the passengers, he said.

Once the aircraft stopped its dive, Perry said the captain explained the plane had fallen victim to a pressurization problem but had levelled off at 2,440 metres.

When the plane recovered from the plunge, it was forced to return to the airport, where passengers were transferred to another aircraft.

That plane was taken out of service in Calgary and a replacement aircraft was brought in, said a WestJet official who asked not to be identified. Passengers were reloaded onto the waiting plane and carried on to Winnipeg.

WestJet couldn't offer any details relating to the incident or what caused the plane to aggressively lose altitude.
Questions,questions,questions....If the plane had a pressurization problem why such a steep dive.

The mask would drop from the ceiling and the oxygen would start flowin and the pilots could make a normal decent and if not a normal decent then less 20,000ft. per min.

Lastly at that speed wouldn't the wings be ripped off the plane.

Speed is relative. A dive with all your spoilers out might not make the plane go all that fast.
According to a post over at those figures (20,000fpm) were all from the point of view of the passenger. WestJet Officials said that an air conditioner unit malfunctioned leading to a "slow" cabin depresserization. The pilots followed procedure and decended using an 8 degree angle of decent (not the huge amount that the passengers were quoted as experiencing.) Somebody who knows what they are talking about correct me if I am wrong, but I think a normal decent in a heavy aircraft is around 3 or 4 degrees? So 8 would feel like you were falling out of the sky, but in fact was not a huge deal. Apparently the problem was repaired and the air craft is now back on the line. Sorry I can't find the link.

Okie, here's the forum post about this

How do we know it was one minute? Was someone sitting there with a stopwatch or are we taking the word of a scared passenger?

Yes, in theory the oxygen will allow the pax and pilots to breath at higher altitudes. However, this supply is limited. If I remember correctly, at 100% o2 (auto above 30,000ft), at the lowest pressure allowable for dispatch (600psi), we have less then a ten minute supply for two crewmembers. Also, we are hoping that the masks and all the equipment works correctly. To quote Stephen Coonts, "Betting your ass on any one system in an airplane with a variety of other problems is not the recommended path to a long and happy life."
Descent angle depends on the aircraft. There are quite a few aircraft that criuse around five degrees nose up, so sometimes a normal descent can be accomplish without going to a negative angle. Passengers hate negative deck angle, and will always over-estimate how low they think the nose is.
When I did my high altitude training in the B-737 sim, we went from FL290 to 10,000 feet in about 1 min and 30 secs. Very fast, with the VSI definitely pegged. It is important to get down to a safe altitude quickly.
Exactly, what Szluka said. In the DC-9 sim a few years ago, we "hauled @$$" down to get to a breathable altitude quickly. You have masks, of course, but their duration is not unlimited! That 20,000FPM figure is not that unreasonable for an emergency descent for a pressurization problem. I've done 4000FPM down in a Baron and 6500FPM plus down in the King Air simulator at my last recurrent. It can certainly be done safely, without damage to the airframe, if done properly. Even in Cessnas, private pilot students are taught to do emergency descents. In transport category aircraft, it is just "intensified" ...

I've done 4000FPM down in a Baron

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in real life that would sure make the eardrums feel like they were gonna explode!
I was lucky enough to jump seat a few years ago in a B737 in South Africa.

We descended at 3800 ft/min and it wasn't too crazy. My head sure did hurt when we landed though!