NTSB: Pilot of Hawaiian Air flight that hit severe turbulence said plume-like cloud shot up in front of plane

The pilot said he didn't have time to deviate.
Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 12:20 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 13, 2023 at 5:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The pilot of a Hawaiian Air plane that hit severe turbulence last month told investigators the flight crew had seconds to react after a cloud shot up vertically in front of the aircraft “like a smoke plume.”

Twenty-five people were injured in the Dec. 18 incident, which happened about 40 minutes before landing and sent some flying into the plane’s ceiling. Of those who needed treatment, six were seriously injured.

According to a preliminary NTSB report, Hawaiian Airlines Flight 35 from Phoenix to Honolulu was at about 38,000 feet when the turbulence happened. Just seconds prior, flight conditions were smooth with clear skies.


The captain told the NTSB that immediately before the turbulence happened, the on-board weather radar was displaying no problems ahead. Additionally, no other pilots had reported severe turbulence along the route.

When the cloud shot up in front of the plane, the captain said, they didn’t have time to deviate.

So he called the lead flight attendant to inform her there may be turbulence ahead.

And just 1 to 3 seconds later, the captain said, the airplane encountered the severe turbulence.

“Shortly after the turbulence-related upset, the lead flight attendant informed the flight crew that there were multiple injuries in the cabin,” the NTSB said, in its report.

The NTSB said the Airbus A330-200 sustained minor damage in the incident.

Of those seriously injured, two were members of the crew. Altogether, there were 266 people on the flight.

What wasn’t made clear in the preliminary report is how much altitude the plane lost when it hit the severe turbulence. Passengers previously told HNN that the drop was severe and sudden.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.