United Airlines 737 Narrowly Avoids Midair Collision at O’Hare

Sep 25, 2017

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A United Airlines Boeing 737 on approach to Chicago O’Hare on Monday afternoon narrowly avoided a midair collision with what its crew said was a small aircraft, according to a Points Guy reader who was on the flight.

While about to complete flight UA246 from Vancouver (YVR) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD), the plane made a sudden evasive turn that had passengers “shrieking.” After safely landing at O’Hare, one of the pilots on UA246 came on the intercom to say it was a “split-second decision” to save the plane.

According to flight tracking site Flightradar24, UA246 landed at 3:02pm, ahead of its scheduled time of 3:14pm.

Photographer and TPG reader Callum Snape emailed us to recount the adventure. Here’s what Callum wrote us:

We were on approach in to O’Hare. 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. Passengers on board shrieked and grabbed hold of the seats in front and their arm rests. 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, the turbulence was still moderate throughout this. Everyone knew something was wrong but weren’t sure what.

After another ten minutes in the air, we landed and then arrived at the gate. A female voice came on the intercom, it was the pilot and she said something along the lines of “Ladies and Gentlemen, 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. It appeared to be similar to a glider that wouldn’t have had geolocation technology onboard. I apologize for the manoeuvres we had to make but it was a split second decision….” I didn’t hear the rest of it but everyone on the plane began clapping and cheering at the pilot.

Everyone was a little shaken up by the experience and happy to be on the ground.

A United Airlines spokesperson emailed a statement confirming the near-collision, and saying that everybody was indeed OK:
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. We are following up with the FAA to do a complete review of what happened.
The flight track from FR24 does show a series of sharp turns:
Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 18.31.19
 The 737-900ER in the incident wore tail number N69810, which makes it a 2013 build, delivered new to United. The plane can seat up to 179 passengers in the United configuration, and according to Callum was “near full.” Callum also received an email from United “apologizing for what happened on the flight,” he said, adding that “United handled everything really well.”
This article was updated to show that the turns the aircraft made to avoid the collision did not occur over Chicago proper.
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