“There was really loud popping and banging coming from the outside of the plane in quick succession and working its way in, so it was bang, bang, bang, bang, bang and then the interior panels started buckling in,” passenger James Wilson, 32, told ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco.
Wilson was one of 184 American Airlines passengers aboard who watched in fear as the walls buckled midair. Fellow passenger Yvonda Little said she was praying for her life.
“I wasn't sure if we were going to make it, but a little prayer [and] we made it,” Little told KGO.
Passengers reported the incident to the crew, after which the pilot turned the flight around.
“It took a lot of convincing. These passengers basically said, ‘No, you need to come over and take a look at this,’” Wilson recounted. “We were very thankful when they changed their mind to turn around and actually make an emergency landing.”
The Boeing 757 departed San Francisco Monday afternoon headed for the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, but an hour into the flight, the pilot reported a “pressurization problem.”
American Airlines said the incident had nothing to do with pressurization, but instead was a cosmetic problem caused by a possible blown air duct along the wall that pushed the cabin panels apart. The structure of the jet remained solid. No injuries were reported.
The FAA is investigating the incident to understand what caused the walls of the plane to buckle and correct any underlying issue.