I had a flight scheduled from WAW to KIV on LOT airlines. The boarding pass told they changed the aircraft to a 737 MAX. When I saw that I've immediately remembered that whole MCAS story from 2018.

The flight went okay, just normal turbulence here and there when passing the clouds, nothing new.

However during the descent right at the border between Romania and Moldova we've slowed down and decreased the descent rate. After that we went in a heavy pitch down (the heaviest in my life, and I've flown more than a hundred times) almost lifting us up from our seats. That's when I've started to be really worried as I've thought this was the MAX model based on the boarding pass. After ≈30 seconds of this pitch down increasing the pilots started to pitch up hard, causing ≈1.8g of acceleration. After returning the plane onto horizontal flight - we've continued the flight without anything super abnormal.

I really thought that was the MAX aircraft and prayed that the pilots were briefed on how to handle it's malfunction and we wouldn't have gone into the second cycle.

However after landing I've checked that it was actually a 737-800 and now I'm reeeeeeally curios what caused that behavior. Any ideas?

Here's the flight radar link: https://fr24.com/data/flights/lo515#2e91e2d2 friend's premium account shows a 3100fpm descent rate

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    $\begingroup$ How do you know that the load factor was around 1.8g? And what is the maximum descent rate shown to you in FR24? $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2022 at 8:21
  • $\begingroup$ @AdityaSharma, I've flown in small aircraft with a g-meter, so I have a general idea of it. Of course I don't have an included g-meter in my body, so that's just an approximation. Maybe could've been 1.5g. Also I don't have a premium FR24 subscription, so I don't see the decent rate $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2022 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ Alright, no issues! $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2022 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ I get that you used the ≈ symbol, but 1.8 Gs is super oddly specific. "Roughly 2.0 based on my experiencing a 60 deg AOB turn" would be more credible. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2022 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall yeah, sorry for that :D I've just felt like it wasn't 2, but more than 1.5. but felt like putting 1.75 would be even more odd. The main idea is that it was very noticeably greater than my most agressive take-offs. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2022 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


Well, the direct cause of such a sudden maneuver is almost certainly pilot action, rather than a system failure. Either a sudden change of autopilot settings (although the autopilot has rate limits, and outside of failure scenarios - which are incredibly rare, but possible - the maneuver should not be violent); or the pilot pushing and pulling on the control column.

Why would a pilot do that? Two possibilities that come to mind are ATC instructions ("expedite descent") or a TCAS RA. For the first case, it's not so unusual for ATC to ask an aircraft to descend quickly, to avoid spacing issues with other traffic. For the second case, automated systems onboard can detect collision threats and issue instructions to the pilots to climb or descend to avoid a collision. When this happens the pilots will maneuver strongly, in the way you described.

Unless an incident report is filed or you can somehow speak with the pilots, it will probably not be possible to figure out exactly what happened on your flight.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the detailed answer. I've spoken to my friend who is a pilot here and has connections with the ATC - no reports were filed that day. Also it seems a bit uncanny that it happened exactly at the Romania - Moldova border. Maybe they have some restrictions on maximum altitude because of the war next door. $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2022 at 14:42

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