A Delta plane traveling from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale on Wednesday made an emergency landing in Tampa, Florida, after plunging nearly 30,000 feet in less than seven minutes, sparking fear and panic among passengers.
Brandon Tomlinson, who was on the flight with his 1-year-old son and his mother, told BuzzFeed News that it happened about 35 minutes after takeoff.
"All of a sudden the oxygen masks dropped out and you started hearing this real howling sound, which I think was the engine because the pilot was diving to get below," he said. "It was like a roller coaster as we were going down. And you can see in the actual flight attendants’ eyes that this was real, this wasn’t something to mess around with."
Tomlinson said he put his oxygen mask on, then his son's, and then had to help his mom calm down as other passengers were crying.
"We all sort of thought this is how it’s going to end," he said.
Delta Air Lines spokesperson Anthony Black told BuzzFeed News that the pilots decided to initiate a controlled rapid descent after being alerted to a "possible issue with the aircraft depressurization."
"As a precautionary measure, the crew elected to rapidly descend from 39,000 to 10,000 feet," Black said. "The goal was to basically get to an altitude where people don't have to wear masks on the aircraft, and it also reduces the issue of depressurization."
Black added that an aircraft depressurization issue during a flight is "extremely rare," but it is something pilots are trained for.
Tomlinson praised the flight attendants for how they dealt with the incident.
"They were real brilliant, the way they handled themselves," he said. "They apologized numerous times, telling us how sorry they were."
The plane landed safely in Tampa on Wednesday night. But Tomlinson said after the shake-up, he was "going to try to drive to a lot more places" rather than fly, at least for a little while.