United Airlines flight 246 from Vancouver to Chicago was nearly involved in a mid-air collision during a dramatic landing at O’Hare International Airport Monday afternoon.
The Boeing 737 was forced to make an abrupt turn to avoid a glider that crossed into the path of the jetliner.
“It was a fairly bumpy approach but nothing out of the ordinary until the right wing suddenly dropped out of nowhere and we made an extreme right turn,” Vancouver-based photographer Callum Snape told Global News. “Passengers on board shrieked and grabbed hold of the seats in front and their armrests.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that the plane encountered the small aircraft near Rockford, IL at 3:46 CT and was forced to climb more than 100 metres to avoid a collision, before the United plane circled back to make a second attempt at landing.
“Initially all of us thought something was wrong with the aircraft and perhaps the right engine had failed but after correcting the aircraft fast, we made a few more turns and evened out,” Snape said.
United Airlines released a statement commenting on the incident.
“United flight 246 from Vancouver to O’Hare landed safely and all passengers deplaned normally after the pilots deviated from the aircraft’s flight path because they spotted a glider,” the statement read.
Snape said that after the plane landed, the pilot explained the incident to passengers.
“She said something along the lines of, ‘Ladies and Gentleman, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk to you first because this will likely make the news. We had to make an evasive manoeuvre to avoid a collision with another small aircraft in the air,'” Snape described.
“‘It appeared to be similar to a glider that wouldn’t have had geolocation technology on board. I apologize for the manoeuvres we had to make but it was a split second decision….’” Snape remembered the pilot saying as passengers began to clap and cheer.
According to FlightRadar24, the flight landed at 4:02 CT, about 12 minutes ahead of its scheduled landing time.
Snape said United Airlines sent passengers an email apologizing for the incident.
United said in its statement that the airline was “following up with the FAA to do a complete review of what happened.”
The FAA said it was still investigating.
Global News contacted the Chicago Department of Aviation for comment, but has not received a response.