CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — It was scary in the sky for airlines passengers headed to Gainesville, Florida, from Charlotte Thursday afternoon when oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling in the middle of the flight. 

“All of a sudden, like my ears just started to really, really hurt, and the next thing you know, there’s this loud bang and all the masks fall,” passenger Harrison Hove told Queen City News. 

Hove is an experienced flyer, but his flight from Charlotte to Gainesville on Thursday gave the University of Florida faculty member a real-life experience of a mid-air scare. He was looking out the window when his ears started to hurt, and oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. 

“We started to descend really quick and there was this smell, this like burning smell,” he described. “And that’s what really started to freak me and I think some other people in the back out.” 

Chemical reaction

The pilot seated across the aisle explained to him the burning smell was normal and was the result of a chemical reaction to form oxygen, but that lifeline would only last about 15 minutes. 

“It’s why we had to rapidly go to 10,000 feet from 30,000 feet because there’s more oxygen there and we can breathe,” Hove said. 

FlightAware shows the plane’s path and rapid decent. Once things calmed down, the 50 passengers on board got an explanation. 

“The pilot got on and said that there was an indicator that went off in the cockpit that indicated a loss of pressure,” Hove recalled, “and that’s why the masks deployed.” 

The irony is that Hove was only on this plane because he missed his original connection out of Charlotte Douglas due to bad weather

“That delay caused me to miss my original flight from Charlotte to Gainesville,” he said. “So, they put me on this flight from hell.” 

Back home in Gainesville, Hove is still processing what happened, and commended the single flight attendant who helped keep everyone calm. 

“It was a small plane. We had one flight attendant. She was awesome,” he said. “I can’t imagine what was going through her mind.” 

He says all sorts of thoughts went through his mind, but never flying again isn’t one of them. 

“I just need a few days on the ground, and I think I’ll be OK,” Hove said. 

Hove is planning to fly through Charlotte again in a couple of weeks, so he’s hoping his next trip is a little smoother. 

The plane was operated by Piedmont Airlines, which released the following statement: 

American Airlines Flight AA 5916, operated by Piedmont Airlines, from Charlotte, North Carolina to Gainesville (GNV) landed safely in GNV at 4:55p.m. ET. While inflight the pilot received an indication of a pressurization issue and immediately descended to a lower altitude that they maintained until they landed safely. Oxygen masks initially deployed and shortly thereafter the pilot in command advised the masks were no longer needed. The aircraft did not declare an emergency upon landing and taxied to the gate under its own power. There were no customer injuries reported.

Piedmont Airlines