3 passengers faint on SkyWest flight, pilot dives 7,000 feet/min to land quickly


Did they have the steak or the fish?


Years ago there was similar incident in the kitchen area of a fancy hotel or something. People were passing out, throwing up, carried out to ambulances and given oxygen. Hazmat teams with respirators went in and eventually the problem was identified as a bag of onions.

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“Went into a near nosedive” is a bit over the top, but to be fair, at least one passenger described it that way. For fun, let’s see what angle the plane was probably descending at.

7000 ft/min is a fairly radical descent rate, but it’s nothing like a “nosedive”, which I take to mean a vertical dive.

7000ft/min is approximately 80 mph. It seems reasonable to assume that the plane’s airspeed was around 400mph, given the number of passengers. If anyone objects to this simplifying assumption, we can probably go look it up on a flight tracker. That means that if the plane were a car, it would be going down a 20% grade (80/400) - which feels pretty darn steep if you drive down it, but it’s nothing like vertical

To get the angle: asin(.2)=.201 radians, meaning we’re in small-angle territory.Converting to degrees, we end up finding that the plane was descending along a path about 11 degrees below horizontal. Don’t get me wrong - this is really steep for an airliner. It’s just 79 degrees away from being a nosedive, and probably 69 degrees away from being a “virtual nosedive”.

It probably felt steeper because the plane was accelerating in the descent - I doubt you can throw the flaps very far out at cruise speed. It was also probably going faster than 400mph since the passengers describe shaking from the airplane. But that would just mean a shallower angle to result in the descent rate.


I don’t think this case was onions. I’m wondering about carbon monoxide myself.

Reminds me of the case where a lady in the emergency room caused many of the attending staff to get sick and pass out. I never heard how that concluded so I did some searching and found this:



That’s a common cause of crashes in single engine private planes where the exhaust manifold is in front of an unpressurized cabin.


Happened to me on a flight east from LA. One passenger fainted and a call for a doctor or RN came over the intercom. Then I got dizzy and stood to go to the restroom - and fainted in the aisle. Couldn’t get up. They kept me on the floor in the galley while we landed and an ambulance met me on the tarmac. I was up and about that evening but they wouldn’t let me go. “Observation.” Never found out what happened but about a month later the airline sent me a ball point pen and apologized for my inconvenience on the flight. A ball point pen. :confused:


What? A letter showing empathy and compassion would have been nice, but the pen takes it to a level of insulting.

Sorry this happened to you, but the pen story is awesome.


The odd photo choice makes it seem like the pilot chose to dive first, resulting in 3 Passengers fainting.

Yep. I’d be surprised if the descent was more than 30 degrees.

30 degrees still seems pretty bonkers. I’d be surprised if there are any conventional civilian aircraft that can sustain a 30-degree dive for 3 minutes without going past Vne (Never Exceed speed).

i would’ve used that pen to write them a pointed note, and then a copy of it would go to the local media.

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Not even some never-expiring drink tickets? Yeeesh.

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You can’t use any flaps, but you can deploy speedbrakes. In any case the downward pitch probably wouldn’t exceed 10 degrees in an emergency descent in a large jet–maybe that at first, followed by a somewhat shallower descent once the desired speed was reached. (Interestingly, Air France 447 descended at almost 11,000 fpm with 16 degrees of nose-up pitch and less forward airspeed than downward velocity. Granted it was stalled all the way down.)

With throttles at idle and 30 degree nose-down pitch I imagine you’d see Vne in well less than half a minute.

Another option, rarely used by commercial pilots, is to use slip. It’s kind of cool when flying gliders. Approach to the runway too steep? Fly “sideways.” Not actually full on sideways, but you do end up looking out the side of the aircraft in the direction you are heading, so it feels like it.

The purpose is to create such drag that the aircraft drops rapidly, but without changing speed or direction of travel. Gliders can have glide ratios of between 20 and 60 to 1. So if you are 200 ft up and 1000 feet from the runway, you can expect to travel 4000 to 12000 feet before touching down. Gotta dump some altitude and quick or you’re not going to land where you want.

Wonderful planes. You can ascend at hundreds of feet per minute and fly over 100 mph all day … with no engine.

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“In the event of loss of cabin air pressure, oxygen masks will not descend from the ceiling, but the plane will rapidly drop in a steep decline, causing you to lose your shit. If you are traveling next to a small child or someone who needs assistance losing their shit, lose your own shit first before assisting them.”


By comparison, a normal climb is about 4 degrees, and that can feel pretty steep.

Decompression is no joke. It can silently take out the aircrew and cause the plane to fly on until it runs out of fuel. The crew had to descend.

I have read that in commercial jets the compressed air for the cabin comes from one or more of the engines, so dangerous gas in the cabin might be a legitimate concern, perhaps as a result of an engine problem.