Faulty AC breaker blamed for causing smoky ride on American Airlines flight

Maureen Kyle

(LOUISVILLE) -- Aviation mechanics are working to figure out what caused an American Airlines plane to fill with smoke, forcing pilots to land here in Louisville overnight. The emergency landing disrupted a flight from Dallas to New Jersey. The situation grounded more than 100 passengers. WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle caught up with one of the passengers this morning and has the latest on the investigation.

Fifty thousand feet in the air -- and air was the one thing passengers needed.

We spoke Chris Haines, who was on American Airlines flight #1354, as he was re-boarding another plane Monday morning. He says passengers were "on our way to Newark from Dallas; about halfway there, we smelled something burning."

It was supposed to a non-smoking, non-stop flight, and it was -- until just before midnight. Haines says that's when "smoke was filling the cabin. It was coming out of the air- conditioning unit."

Haines sat toward the back of the plane. He says flight attendants scrambled to find the source of the problem, and buzzed the cockpit to alert the pilots.

"They eventually turned off both air-conditioning units and that seemed to stop the flow of smoke," Haines said. "But at that point, our cabin was filled with smoke, everyone was breathing the bad air. I myself had a towel, and I soaked it with water and I was breathing through that."

Haines says all passengers remained unusually calm, but started to have trouble breathing. He says the decision to make an emergency landing couldn't come soon enough. "It took over half- an-hour for them to land."

There were 123 passengers and five crew members on board the plane. Of those, four were taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons.

"It's a pretty rare incident, what happened with flight #1354, but its not unprecedented," said American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner. He told us the problem was most likely caused by a malfunctioning breaker in the air-conditioning unit.

"The plane is getting looked at right now by our mechanics and we'll either get it out for further repairs if needed, or get it back into service as soon as possible," Wagner said.

The aircraft remained grounded in Louisville as the passengers of flight #1354, including Chris Haines, took off toward the friendly skies and fresh air between here and New Jersey.

American Airlines told us the flight from Louisville to Newark was scheduled to land at 1:50 p.m. Friday. We double checked, and according to www.flylouisville.com, flight #1354 landed at 1:57 p.m. -- smoke free and non-stop.

Online Reporter: Maureen Kyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever