On October 6th a United Airlines Boeing 787-9 declared an emergency related to a cabin pressurization issue. An emergency descent was performed and passenger oxygen masks were deployed. Heading from San Francisco to Amsterdam, the aircraft diverted to Bangor International Airport in Maine, United States.
Flight UA968 heading from San Francisco to Amsterdam was in Canadian airspace when the emergency occurred. However, the diversion took the aircraft back into the United States to Bangor International Airport – a joint civil-military public airport according to Wikipedia.
This situation comes shortly after another United 787 transatlantic incident involving a fuel leak.
Affect on passengers
Here’s United Airline’s official statement:
“United Airlines flight 968 from San Francisco to Amsterdam diverted to Bangor, Maine due to a cabin pressurization issue. The flight landed safely in Bangor and customers deplaned normally. Our teams worked with customers to provide accommodations for the night in Bangor and we booked customers on a new aircraft from Bangor to Newark, New Jersey and on to Amsterdam this afternoon.”
United also reports that the aircraft was carrying 197 passengers and 13 crew members. As stated above, on following day passengers were transferred to United’s east coast hub in Newark, New Jersey. From there, passengers continue on to Amsterdam from Newark.
According to FlightRadar24, the return flight (UA969) from Amsterdam to San Francisco was canceled. United operates a daily service between the two cities. The total flight time is scheduled as nine and a half to 10 hours outbound and closer to 10 and a half hours on the return.
About the aircraft
According to The Aviation Herald, the aircraft involved had registration N35953. Airfleets shows that this Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is 4.7 years old. Powered by GEnx engines, this plane has been with United Airlines since it came out of the Boeing factory.
This aircraft is one of 25 Boeing 787-9 aircraft in United’s fleet. There are still 13 more on order according to Wikipedia. Furthermore, United has 12 of the shorter 787-8 jets and nine of the longer 787-10 variant. There are still five more -10s on order.
The dangers of cabin depressurization
Depressurization can result from several factors. Firstly, sudden depressurization occurs when an aircraft’s enclosed structure is suddenly damaged. This can happen as a result of a broken window or an open exit and has been known to result in passengers being ejected from the aircraft due to the sudden pressure change.
The second type, which happens usually as a result of damaged packs or other equipment, results in a more gradual pressure drop. This is the type of depressurization which caused Lufthansa’s Airbus A321 to land twice and also forced an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet-100 to return to Moscow during a flight to Samara earlier this year.
With gradual depressurization, people aboard a plane can succumb to oxygen deprivation and cold if action is not taken quickly. For this reason, a reduction in altitude is usually the first course of action to ensure the crew and passengers’ safety.
No further details were provided by the airline regarding cabin depressurization or how it handled the passengers of the canceled return flight, UA969. We reached out to United asking about UA969 but no information was given.
Have you ever been in a cabin depressurization incident? We’d love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment on our post!