Family Sues United Airlines After Nightmare Near-Crash Ruins Their Vacation


A family aboard a Boeing 777 jetliner that suddenly dropped from the sky after takeoff and almost crashed is suing United Airlines over the harrowing incident they say nearly killed three generations of kin in one fell swoop.

“This litigation arises out of the near death of eleven members of the Maltz family on United Airlines Flight 1722 on December 18, 2022, due to the negligence of United Airlines, Inc. and its flight crew,” according to a lawsuit filed April 24 in Chicago federal court and obtained by The Daily Beast. “As described below, the Boeing 777 aircraft came within seconds of crashing into the Pacific Ocean nearly resulting in the deaths of the entire… Maltz family, and subjecting them to extreme terror and emotional distress during the aircraft’s precipitous dive and near miss with the ocean.”

California residents Scott and Susan Maltz, along with their three adult children, their son- and daughter-in-law, and their four grandchildren, blame United for turning their “idyllic family vacation… into a nightmare,” the suit states.

Boeing aircraft have suffered a recent spate of safety incidents, Maltz family attorney Curt Miner emphasized to The Daily Beast.

“What is terrifying about the United Airlines incident is that it was a pure case of pilot error—as confirmed by the NTSB—on a major U.S. carrier, on a major route,” Miner said. “That is not something the American flying public expects to happen in this day and age when traveling [on] domestic airlines.”

The lawsuit says the Maltzes had just completed a “long-planned family trip” to Hawaii and were headed back to San Francisco International Airport when the unthinkable happened.

Following the aircraft’s departure from Maui’s Kahului Airport, the captain and first officer “failed to properly communicate regarding the aircraft’s flap settings,” the lawsuit alleges, citing an investigation by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). When the captain called for a flap setting of 5 degrees, the first officer instead set the flaps to 15 degrees, according to the suit.

“Due to the failure of the pilots to manage and monitor the airplane’s vertical flightpath, airspeed, flap settings, and pitch attitude following their miscommunication, United flight 1722 suddenly lost altitude and plunged towards the Pacific Ocean,” the suit contends.

A graph from the Maltz family’s lawsuit, showing the plummeting flight path of the United Boeing 777 they were on.

A graph from the Maltz family’s lawsuit, showing the plummeting flight path of the United Airlines Boeing 777 they were on.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

The aircraft’s safety systems provided three separate warnings to the pilots amid the “nearly catastrophic event,” including a “sink rate” warning, a “pull up” warning, and a “too low terrain warning,” the lawsuit goes on.

“Passengers on United flight 1722 were screaming and praying due to the erratic flight profile and the belief that they would die,” it continues.

By the time the pilots managed to regain control of the airplane, it was “merely 748 feet above the surface of the Pacific Ocean,” according to the suit.

“Due to the actions of United and its pilots, the aircraft dove at a rate of -8,536 feet per minute towards the surface of the ocean, subjecting the Plaintiffs and the other passengers on United flight 1722, to extreme G-forces, severe terror, emotional distress, mental anguish, anxiety, and pain and suffering,” the lawsuit states.

The Maltzes, according to the suit, have “suffered significant mental and emotional distress from enduring this horrific experience and are traumatized by the fact that they were moments away from having all three generations of their family wiped out.”

Although there were no injuries among the passengers, the lawsuit claims United’s alleged negligence caused the Maltz family “emotional distress, terror, mental anguish, anxiety, a fear of flying, pain and suffering, and other injuries and damages to be proven at trial.”

Another person aboard the flight told CNN at the time that people in the cabin were screaming and that he was “just kind of gripping the seat and praying under [his] breath.”

“There were a number of screams on the plane,” passenger Rod Williams said. “Everybody knew that something was out of the ordinary, or at least that this was not normal.”

The NTSB blamed human error for the hair-raising near-miss.

In a prepared statement, Miner said, “To some extent, encounters with bad weather or turbulence are unavoidable when you fly, but no passenger should ever have to endure such a terrifying experience due to pilot error while traveling on a routine commercial flight. Our clients’ entire, three-generation family was subjected to this terrifying, near-miss incident. We are committed to seeking justice and fair compensation on their behalf.”

Miner’s co-counsel, Austin Bartlett, said, “This nearly catastrophic flight was horrific and traumatic. The Maltz family and all airline passengers deserve better.”

Reached for comment on Tuesday, United said in an email, “We don’t have anything to share.”

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