Passengers, crew fall ill on Chicago-bound flight

April 1, 2011 8:21:31 PM PDT
An American Airlines plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Ohio after some passengers and crew onboard became ill.

Investigators are looking into whether a drop in cabin pressure is to blame.

The flight took off from Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. and was on the way to Chicago when it was forced to land in Dayton, Ohio.

American flight 547 had a 6:10 am scheduled departure out of Reagan National for O'Hare. Passengers tell ABC7 that the plane pushed back from the gate, then stopped, and returned to the gate. The crew announced that there was something with the air-conditioning system that needed to be looked at. It was checked. The flight departed and was climbing to its cruising altitude when two flight attendants and some passengers started feeling faint.

"At first one of the flight attendants noticed, she was pushing the cart and she said she felt a little bit queasy. And she told the other flight attendant, 'I just don't feel right,'" said Patricia McNally, passenger. "When the other flight attendant went to tell the captain, she couldn't speak right. She said, 'I thought I was going crazy because the words in my head were not coming out right.'"

Flight 547 was at 28,000 feet when one of the flight attendants and a couple passengers started feeling faint. The pilot was told. He made an announcement and down came the oxygen masks.

"I never had the oxygen mask fall down, and usually when they do the precautions at the beginning of the flight, I don't pay attention because it's not gonna happen to me," said Gabrielle Landry, passenger.

"Everyone just got very still and they just did what they were told. We were all astonished," said Miyoshi Landry, passenger.

"When you see oxygen masks fall out, a lof of people get pretty excited. The whole thing about the bag not inflating, they were expected to see air coming through and the bags inflating," said Dan Squires, passenger.

The plane descended to about 10,000 feet so everyone could breathe easier, and landed without incident in Dayton where American switched out planes.

The Chicago-bound passengers finally made it to O'Hare around 1 p.m.

For Jay Bogdan and his two children, it was an interesting end to their spring break trip to DC.

"Everyone was pretty calm. We were in the airport and nobody was really complaining. Nobody was really mad about anything," said Bogdan.

Despite the anxious moments, passengers tell ABC7 during those moments of unknown, everyone remained pretty calm.

"All of us who have been on this flight for a 100 million years who hear the 'do this, do this' went, 'oh my God, what do we do,'" said McNally. "Nobody on the plane panicked."

When the plane landed in Dayton, two passengers and a flight attendant were taken to a hospital for observation. The passengers returned to the airport and continued their trips. The flight attendant is being kept overnight for observation.

American says it's too early to say what the problem was. They are re looking at cabin pressurization.

As nerve-wracking as flight 547 might have been for its passengers, another flight out west Friday afternoon was more frightening.

Southwest Airlines flight 812 from phoenix to Sacramento had to make an emergency landing at the Yuma Marine Corps air station.

Passengers say there was some sort of jarring noise, the cabin went through rapid decompression, the oxygen masks dropped, the pilot went into a controlled descent, and passengers looked up to see a roughly three foot long hole in the top of the fuselage with insulation and wiring exposed. What caused that is a mystery. The plane landed safely. No one was hurt.

Neither Southwest nor the FAA has had any extensive comment. A back-up plane flew the 118 passengers to Sacramento Friday night.