SkyWest Airlines Flight 2936 was scheduled to arrive at the Eastern Iowa Airport at 9:26 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. SkyWest operates as American Eagle for American Airlines.
The regional jet was diverted to DuPage Airport due to smoke in the cockpit, the FAA said. Some passengers said the smoke appeared to be coming from the cargo area.
Nick Ludwig, of Cedar Rapids, tweeted a short video showing smoke in the cabin. The flight landed safely around 9:13 a.m.
Fire on the plane! American Airlines flight Chicago Ohare to Cedar Rapids. Landed, about to deplane. pic.twitter.com/ekeQCFPpEZ— Nick Ludwig (@naludwig) May 1, 2017
All 54 people on board were evacuated. Once he was back on the ground, Ludwig posted another video, explaining what happened.
American Airlines emergency landing, Chicago to Cedar Rapids flight AA2936, currently in DuPage. pic.twitter.com/Sc430NfBRR— Nick Ludwig (@naludwig) May 1, 2017
He said almost immediately after the plane took off, passengers noticed the smoke. Ludwig's seatmate, a man named Jeff, said the flight attendant initially told passengers it was mist. Ludwig said she was on her first solo flight.
"The cabin started filling up with smoke. When we raised the concern, the stewardess told us that it was just mist. We knew it wasn't mist because of the smell and the smoke. So that got people a little more anxious than they probably would have. At that time, we started seeing the pilot was turning around the plane, heading back toward the airport. People still got scared. Then we heard that we had seven more minutes until landing. It was a very anxious seven minutes," Jeff said.
Jeff said the only thought he had during that time was "just getting to the airstrip and hopefully landing."
Seatmate Jeff discussing the emergency landing from the flight between Chicago and Cedar Rapids AA2936 pic.twitter.com/qt9kGEJhaY— Nick Ludwig (@naludwig) May 1, 2017
Other passengers said most people remained calm. Sherman Dillard, an assistant basketball coach at the University of Iowa, was also on the flight. He said in a tweet that he was "feeling blessed" Monday.
Emergency landing 10 minutes after takeoff from O'hare. Fire on board. Feeling blessed right now. pic.twitter.com/P1cNVc57xH— Sherman Dillard (@shermandillard) May 1, 2017
Since the passengers were evacuated from the plane, they will have to be rescreened before they can board again. An airline official said DuPage Airport does not have TSA facilities, so passengers will have to be bused back to O'Hare to go through security again.
SkyWest said mechanics will inspect the plane.