US airline Southwest is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for two separate incidents, including an event that saw one of its aircraft 400ft above the ocean off the coast of a Hawaiian island. 

While the close call incident took place in April, regulators have now confirmed they are investigating the event, which occurred when adverse weather forced a pilot to abandon a landing at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai. 

Southwest recently distributed a memo to employees detailing its investigation which found the 737 MAX 8 jet dropped from an altitude of 1,000ft to 400ft in just a few seconds, before quickly climbing again at a rate of 8,500ft per minute, as first reported by Bloomberg.

The airline’s review found that a less-experienced first officer, who was in charge of the flight, had accidentally caused the plane to descend at a quicker rate than planned, before increasing thrust once alarms sounded that the aircraft was close to the water. 

Southwest reportedly concluded that better communication between crew and proper pilot monitoring could have avoided the event, with the airline ensuring that the pilots involved received additional training afterwards. 

While the FAA has confirmed it is investigating the incident, representatives for the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have said that the authority is not aware of the event. 

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The incident is the second in-air event from Southwest under investigation by the FAA, after another MAX 8 experienced a ‘Dutch Roll’ at 34,000ft during a flight between Arizona and California in May. 

A Dutch Roll is the name given to an event where an aircraft “wags” from side to side at the same time as rocking up and down. 

While none of the 181 people on board the flight were injured, subsequent inspections of the aircraft found structural damage to the plane, including to a standby power unit which may have been the cause of the incident.

The FAA said it had not found any similar issues with other airlines, but it was working with the NTSB and Boeing on an investigation and would take “appropriate action” based on the findings, with the NTSB expecting to release its preliminary report within a month. 

The involvement of a MAX 8 will likely raise some eyebrows as Boeing continues to fight for its reputation after the FAA stepped in to oversee 737 MAX production following a number of high-profile safety incidents and damning reports into quality at the manufacturer. 

Both investigations also come at a pivotal time for Southwest with the airline facing a possible leadership renewal as activist investor Elliott Investment Management seeks changes at the company, which has struggled to regain pre-pandemic profits.