Delta passengers on their way from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, received a major scare Wednesday as their plane dropped nearly 30,000 feet in the space of under eight minutes, forcing a diversion to Tampa.
Data from flight-tracking site FlightAware shows Delta Flight 2353 diving from an altitude of 39,000 feet to 9,975 feet in the span of about 7 ½ minutes.
“While in flight between Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale Delta flight 2353 made a rapid, controlled descent due to a possible aircraft depressurization issue,” Delta spokesman Anthony Black told USA TODAY. He added that the aircraft is being evaluated by maintenance technicians.
“Air masks – the oxygen masks dropped – from the top of the plane. Chaos sort of ensued amongst the passengers,” passenger Harris Dewoskin said told Atlanta news station WSB-TV.
Although a flight attendant told passengers not to panic, Dewoskin said “It was a hectic moment so the passengers around me — a lot of people were kind of hyperventilating.”
Passenger Tiffany Sawyer tweeted her compliments to the flight crew, who she says were “awesome” at “keeping people calm.”
A fellow passenger tweeted, “God Bless the Captain and crew. Had an emergency midair from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale. Oxygen masks deployed and we descended quickly and we’re diverted to Tampa. I texted my wife and dad I loved them. Told my mom I love her and hugged my son.”
According to FlightAware, The Boeing 767-300 departed Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at 3:57 p.m. EDT and flew south along the west coast of Florida until 4:54 p.m., when it was diverted to Tampa.
Route data shows the plane turning around over the Gulf of Mexico near the Sarasota/Bradenton area before doubling back to Tampa International Airport, where it landed at 5:10 p.m.
Passengers were then transported from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale by bus later that evening.
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