KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - A Spirit Airlines flight carrying 126 passengers performed an abrupt nosedive of 1,600 feet Sunday evening after it got too close to another plane.
Philip McCain of the Western Michigan University College of Aviation said people should not be afraid to fly in the wake of the incident. He said similar incidents will happen from time to time, especially around busy airports like Detroit. But he also said plane passengers are safe and that the maneuver was a result of all the safety measures already in place.
"There are so many safety measures and this is kind of one of the last steps in avoiding a collision type scenario," he said.
The two planes, the Spirit flight and a skydiving jump plane, got close enough for the Spirit flight's Terminal Collision Avoidance System to kick in.
"When it does detect a possible collision or imminent collision, it will give a command to either climb or descend," McCain explained.
In this case, it ordered a 1,600-foot descent in just seconds. To put that in perspective, that is the same height as Grand Rapids' tallest building stacked on top of itself four times.
Cooper Murphy from Coldwater was on the flight.
"People were crying, and during it people are saying, 'We're going to die,'" he said. "It was just like what you see in the movies. Everyone was freaking out."
But flight experts say though the warning system kicked in, there was still plenty of space in the sky.
"At no point were they coming dangerously close to having a collision," McCain said.
For those on the plane, however, the fear was real.
"It just felt like we were going down, and that was the last time I would see my brother and my family," Murphy said.
Murphy said he doesn't know yet if he and his brothers will fly back to Michigan from Texas or if they will find another way to get home.
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