Smoke in cabin sends flight back to LAX

LOS ANGELES The plane was already in the air when the pilot reported the smell of smoke in the cabin. About 30 minutes after the plane departed, American Airlines Flight 31 returned to LAX for a quick evacuation.

American Airlines says there was an odor, and a possible haze, in the cabin. However, some passengers say it was a thick layer of smoke, and that it was a frightening scene aboard the plane. Passenger Kori Donahue, one of the 188 passengers aboard the flight, says the oxygen masks were not working properly and flight attendants did not keep their composure.

Donahue says the odor was very noticeable even before takeoff. Donahue and her new husband were flying to Hawaii on their honeymoon.

"It was very instantaneous that the cabin filled up with smoke," said Donahue. "We were told to put on our oxygen masks, which the entire left side of the plane dropped, but the right side did not at all ... which was the side that we were sitting on. So, it was really nerve-wracking."

Donahue says it was about five minutes before the other masks dropped.

"My assumption was the plane was going to go down and hit the runway and basically burst into flames, the way they were making it seem ... how serious it was. The flight attendant actually scared me because I had been on a few planes that had problems and I've never had them lose their composure like they did. And it was just very nerve-wracking because it felt like they were panicking, so we should be too," said Donahue.

American Airlines says the evacuation only resulted in a handful of minor injuries. Donahue says they were mostly people hitting their heads from standing up too quickly. However, about six people were reportedly injured while sliding down the emergency evacuation chutes.

"For sure, we'll have a story to tell for the rest of our lives," said Donahue.

"To be honest, for the whole first part of it, when everything first started, I was asleep. I passed out before we took off. But, my mom woke me up when the oxygen masks actually deployed. And so, at that point, wide awake," said passenger Mickey Brown.

"It smelled like some kind of machine oil, maybe like a hydraulic fluid that had maybe been burning at a very low level ... enough to create some smoke," said one passenger. "Just kind of, just like on a World War II TV show, they, you know, 'Jump! Jump! Jump!' And everybody was jumping down the slides to the bottom and then they casually walked us over to buses and a holding area."

The latest statement from Tim Wagner, spokesperson for American Airlines, said: "We have not identified a cause, however, we sometimes find that the air conditioning system pulls in smells from the engine. Especially after servicing the aircraft, odors can be generated from excess oil or other fluid on hot equipment."

"We were scared. It was very, obviously, so unusual to sense that the plane had something burning," said passenger Julie Brown.

Passengers from Flight 31 boarded another flight to Hawaii Tuesday afternoon.


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