BA jet seconds from disaster in US 'near collision' | the Daily Mail: "A packed British Airways jet was just seconds from disaster after plummeting out of the sky in a dramatic near miss over America, it has emerged.
BA flight 2166 carrying 175 terrified passengers, three pilots and 11 crew plunged 600 feet in a bid to avoid collision with another plane above it."
This is actually a lovely example because, for a change, it's not particularly political. But observe the phrasing: "plummeting out of the sky"; "174 terrified passengers"; "plunged 600 feet."
Sounds pretty scary, huh? But let's think about what the story actually says: the BA plane had been told to proceed from 16,000 feet to 20,000 when TCAS --- the collision avoidance system --- told the pilots it had detected a possible collision and told them to descend. The plane then descended --- "plummeted" --- from 16,000 feet to 15,400 feet. It was an unexpected maneuver, and four of the crew were knocked off their feet, and got bruised up. The person they interviewed said it "felt like turbulance."
Now, as a sometime pilot and damn near professional air traveler, here's how I'd describe it: "We were climbing out of Orlando when the pilot surprised us by descending suddenly for a couple of seconds. I thought it was just a bit of clear air turbulance, but the pilot said he had to maneuver to avoid another plane. A little exciting, and I guess a couple of flight attendants got knock off their feet, but we went on to London. Sort of exciting at the time, but no big deal."
What's the difference? The "colorful" verbs. "Plummeted from the sky" --- about 4 percent of its actual altitude. "Seconds from disaster" --- just like you're seconds from disaster when you have to make a sudden stop in traffic.
It's not the maneuver than changedc: it's the words. "Plummeted from the sky" is illusion. It's not false ... but it's not very much the truth either.