United Express Flight Diverted After 10,000-Foot Drop

Annie Keller

A United Express flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to O'Hare airport in Chicago, Illinois, had to make an emergency landing in Indianapolis. Flight records show United Express Flight 5919 made a sudden 10,000-foot drop mid-flight around 8 a.m., and at 8:30 p.m. it landed in Indianapolis. The cause has not currently been revealed but is believed to be a pressurization issue.

"Some passengers were complaining of headaches and ear problems so they diverted to Indianapolis," said Jeff Dutton, Communications Manager at Indianapolis Airport.

Passengers were checked out as soon as the flight landed, but no one was taken to a hospital. A United airlines spokesman said that the 10,000-foot drop is standard in cases of pressurization issues. The passengers were eventually taken by bus to Chicago, as that was faster than waiting for another plane. The United Express plane itself is still at the airport awaiting possible repair. United Express authorities and the FAA are investigating the incident.

It's not the only United Express flight that has experienced trouble. On July 28, another United Express flight, SkyWest Flight 5393, had to return to Milwaukee after departing for Chicago due to engine trouble. Photos taken after the plane landed show a missing panel on one of the engines. As with the United Express flight today, no one was injured.

It's also not the only emergency landing recently: Delta Airlines Flight 1889 had to land in Denver when hail damaged the nose cone of the plane. The flight originated from Boston and was headed to Salt Lake City.

Pressurization issues aren't something most passengers think about when flying, but they can cause serious damage. A United Airlines flight in 1989 suddenly lost pressure when a cargo door came open mid-flight. Nine passengers were sucked out of the plane, but the plane landed in Honolulu without further incident. A grimmer incident is the case of Helios Airways Flight 522. All 121 aboard the flight were killed when a pressurization error in the cockpit incapacitated the pilots. The plane continued to fly on autopilot until it crashed from fuel exhaustion. The door to the cockpit was locked and could not be opened by anyone aboard. The deadliest incident involving a single airliner was also a pressurization issue. Japan Airlines flight 123 suffered depressurization caused by an aft pressure bulkhead failure. The plane stayed aloft for forty minutes as the pilots attempted to regain control, but eventually crashed into Mt. Osutaka. Five hundred twenty of the 524 people on board were killed.

[Photo via wikipedia/Dan Hammer]