United Airlines Advises Caution in Memo After Several “Near Misses”

Three incidents were highlighted in the letter, including two that resulted in near misses

A newly obtained letter addressed to all United Airlines pilots reportedly shows the airline has made a number of safety mistakes recently, including two incidents that resulted in near misses.

The letter was sent to all United Airlines pilots from Howard Attarian, the senior vice president of flight operations, and Mike Quiello, the vice president of corporate safety, on Jan. 9. It was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The full letter was obtained Thursday by ABC News.

"Over the past few weeks, our airline has experienced what we would categorize as major safety events and near-misses," the letter begins.

Three different incidents were highlighted in the memo, including two in which planes were flying too close to the ground. In one incident, the pilot had to resort to the "pull-up maneuver" to avoid crashing. In another incident, the pilot deviated from the flight path and landed with a dangerously low amount of fuel.

The common theme in these safety incidents is that they are all preventable, Attarian and Quiello said.

"We must ask ourselves, 'Do we have our priorities in line every time we put on our uniforms and strap into the airplane?'" they wrote. "While the airline industry always seems to be in a state of flux, the one constant for all of us is that we are professional aviators with the common goal of flying our passengers and crew from point A to point B SAFELY."

The memo also pointed out a lack of communication, particularly when making important safety decisions. "Every pilot must be willing to speak up if safety is in question," Attarian and Quiello wrote. "In the same vein, every pilot must also accept the input of their fellow crewmembers on the flight deck ... In some cases, a pilot's input is ignored. This is unacceptable."

To underscore the seriousness of these recent incidents, they pointed out the 2013 UPS plane crash at Alabama's Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in which the pilots were blamed for the crash.

The large number of new hires were also blamed in part for posing safety risks, saying they "introduce significant risk to the operation."

Airline officials regularly check flight data and report the findings to their pilots, United Airlines spokesperson Charles Hobart said.

"As part of our commitment to safety, we constantly monitor flight operations data and regularly communicate the findings with our pilots, " Hobart said in a statement. "Our proactive approach to safety aligns with the FAA's Safety Management System and enables us to recognize potential issues and adjust our actions to further ensure the safety of our customers and coworkers."

Contact Us