By Andrea Romano
September 19, 2019

A Delta flight from Atlanta headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, had to be diverted to Tampa after the plane made a quick descent from 39,000 feet to 10,000 feet in under seven minutes, WSB-TV reported.

Although passengers described the ordeal as understandably “terrifying,” there were luckily no injuries reported, according to the Miami Herald.

Flight tracking website Flight Aware shows a graph of the plane’s rapid descent on Wednesday evening. According to the Miami Herald, the malfunction was caused by a sudden change in cabin pressure, which forced pilots to make a quick descent.

Since aircraft flies at such high altitudes (usually above 36,000 feet), there is less oxygen for humans to breathe. Pressurization helps correct this issue and helps supply more oxygen to passengers and crew. Without it, humans aboard aircraft would not only struggle to get enough oxygen to their lungs, they would also be unable to stay conscious at such high altitudes. If the aircraft was losing pressure, descending the plane to a habitable and breathable altitude as quickly as possible may have been the best solution at the time.

Delta Airlines Plane Plunges Almost 30,000 ft in less than 7 minutes.
Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Oxygen masks were automatically deployed within the cabin and pilots were in control of the aircraft the entire time during the descent, the Miami Herald reported. Still, the extreme circumstances left passengers frightened and uneasy.

“There was a scary 60 to 90 seconds where we really didn't know what was going on. At 15,000 feet in the air, it's a scary moment for sure,” said passenger Harris Dewoskin to WSB-TV. “Air masks, the oxygen masks dropped from the top of the plane. Chaos sort of ensued amongst the passengers.”

Dewoskin added that a flight attendant could be heard repeatedly saying, “Do not panic,” over the intercom.

Some passengers even shared images from aboard the aircraft on social media. One Twitter user explained that he was so scared that he texted his wife and father to tell them that he loved them.

Despite the harrowing ordeal, a Delta spokesperson told the Miami Herald that the plane landed without issue shortly after 5 p.m. in Tampa “out of an abundance of caution” but was not treated as an emergency. Mechanics are currently working on the grounded plane to pinpoint the issue.

Delta issued an apology to all passengers, according to WSB-TV, who were bused to Fort Lauderdale after landing in Tampa on Wednesday night.