Passenger Describes American Eagle Emergency Landing

FAA describes problem as a "failed electrical component" that caused smoke

Thursday morning, dozens of passengers will try again to catch a flight out of DFW airport, after their first plane was forced to make an emergency landing Wednesday night.

American Eagle Flight 3400 was headed to Quad City International Airport in Moline, Ill., when the pilots reported smoke in the cockpit.

One passenger, a reporter named Tiffany Liou, talked exclusively with NBC 5. She said some passengers smelled smoke, the pilots made an abrupt U-turn with the plane and the flight attendant made an announcement. “’I need everyone to listen up’ and he was really serious," said Liou.

“That's when I noticed people around me started panicking. I started crying I was so scared.  He told us, ‘I might need you to brace for landing. I need you to put your hands on your legs and put your head to your knees, just in case I tell you, you need to brace. You need to listen to what I say and evacuate if necessary,’” said Liou.

Liou said she prayed she’d live through the landing.

“I thought of the worst, of course, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is it.  How am I going to survive this?'  I was just panicking, nothing, it was fear,” said Liou.

The plane was diverted to nearby Majors Field in Greenville where pilots were able to land the plane without incident.

“Within minutes we landed. It was actually a smooth landing. They told us there was smoke in the cockpit. It was just panic. We all jumped off the plane. Everyone helped each other.  There was a lady with a cane people helped escort off. It was just crazy. Nothing I expected from one flight to Moline,” said Liou.

Once the plane landed, the passengers were told to evacuate.

“The flight attendant started saying, 'Get out of the aircraft immediately,’ so I thought, 'Oh my goodness, what if  something bursts up in flames?'  He said there was smoke, you never know what's going to happen. I was still scared until we got off the plane and ran to the grass,” said Liou.

Liou told NBC 5 that she didn’t ever see smoke.

“You could smell it outside of the plane, definitely.  The firefighters came with her hoses, and they were putting something out,” said Liou.

On Thursday afternoon, the FAA described the problem only as a "failed electrical component" in the cockpit that caused smoke.

Liou took to Twitter after landing and tweeted heaps of praise on the crew for keeping everyone calm during the landing and evacuation. The airline said the landing was done out of an abundance of caution and that there were no reports of injuries to any of the 45 passengers or crew of three.

According to Liou, the passengers were taken to a recreation center, bused back to DFW Airport, then taken to hotels for the night.  The ordeal to more than six hours. On the way to DFW Airport, Liou talked to the pilot.

“He said in a situation like this it could take seconds for a fire to happen and that's it.  He knew that it was better just to land immediately, even if the plane wasn't ready to land.  It's better to damage the plane than to hurt people,” said Liou.

Liou was supposed to start her first day on the job as a reporter at KWQC in Davenport, Iowa.  She said her news director understands her delay.

“It's definitely a story I'll remember,” said Liou.

NBC 5's Frank Heinz contributed to this report.

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