Severe turbulence hits flight HA35 from Phoenix to Honolulu, injuring 36 people, 11 seriously, Hawaii

hawaiian airlines airplane

Honolulu Airlines flight 35 from Phoenix to Hawaii encountered severe turbulence roughly 30 minutes before landing in Honolulu on December 18, 2022, causing some passengers to fly out of their seats. While the plane (Airbus A330) landed safely, 36 people were injured during the event, of which 11 seriously.

Medical care was provided to passengers and crewmembers at the airport for minor injuries, while some were swiftly transported to local hospitals for further care, Hawaiian Airlines said.

The airline hadn’t experienced ‘an incident of this nature in recent history’ … The flight was full, carrying 278 passengers and 10 crew members, Jon Snook, the airline’s chief operating officer, said during a news conference.1

Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, said 20 people were taken to hospitals, including 11 people deemed to be in serious condition. At least one person was reported to have been rendered unconscious but all patients were awake and talking when they arrived at the hospital, he said.

Ireland said some patients suffered cuts, including to the head, as well as bumps and bruises while other were nauseous and vomited as a result of extreme motion.

Snook later said they don’t know how many people on board were wearing seatbelts at the time of the turbulence when the seatbelt sign was illuminated. The determination of the seatbelts and other contributing factors relating to the incident will be part of a National Transportation Safety Board investigation. Snook said Hawaiian is cooperating with the NTSB investigation but did not have a timeline available.2

The turbulence was caused by a strong storm — known as Kona storm and Kona low — affecting Hawaii with a variety of weather hazards, including damaging high winds, potentially severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding.

noaa goes-18 0150z december 19 2022 bg
Image credit: NOAA/GOES-18, RAMMB/CIRA, The Watchers. Acquired at 01:50 UTC on December 19, 2022

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Honolulu has issued multiple advisories including a high surf warning for portions of Hawaii, and a high wind warning and a flood watch for all the Hawaiian Islands.

Numerous showers, heavy at times, and thunderstorms will continue through Monday as a Kona storm moves through the region, the office said.3

Bands of thunderstorms are moving through islands this evening (Sunday, December 18 (LT)) ahead of a vigorous cold front that will sweep through the state from northwest to southeast on Monday.

The stronger thunderstorms may become severe through Monday afternoon (LT) with strong winds and the potential for hail.

Strong southwesterly Kona winds will increase into Monday ahead of the cold front, with the strongest wind speeds forecast for communities along the downwind north and east slopes of mountain areas.

Periods of heavy rain with this storm will likely result in flash flooding in some areas.

Weather will improve over the western islands by Monday night and across the rest of the state by Tuesday, December 20.

Fair weather and light winds are expected from Wednesday through Friday.


1 Hawaii flight turbulence injures 20 passengers, 11 seriously – The Guardian – December 19, 2022

2 EMS: 36 treated after Hawaiian flight hits severe turbulence – Star Advertiser – December 18, 2022

3 Hawaii Area Synopsis – NWS Honolulu – December 19, 2022 at 07:59 AM HST

Featured image credit: Hawaiian Airlines (stock)


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