CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Thousands of people are departing from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport for the holiday weekend.  

Every once and a while, those travelers will hear a pre-flight announcement. 

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“It was kind of hot, a little bit hotter than it would normally be, and the flight attendants announced there was a malfunction with the air conditioning unit,” said passenger Savannah Rudicel. “So, while we are on the ground it’s going to be a little hotter, but then they said as soon as we get up in the air it would cool down.” 

Rudicel, also a reporter for Queen City News, was on American Airlines Flight 1616 to Kansas City. Twenty-five minutes into the flight, Rudicel says the pilot banked hard and started heading back to Charlotte.  

“Normal turbulence goes up and down; this was like a shake,” she added. “So, since it was different and partnered with a strange smell, definitely uneasy. I immediately opened up that window to see if I could see anything from the wing.” 

She didn’t see anything, but Rudicel said she did have to prepare for something she didn’t think of. 

“I was in the emergency exit row, so I was very much preparing myself,” she said. “I’m right by the window, right by the door, thinking ‘If we’re going to have to use this slide, it’s go-time.’” 

The slide wasn’t needed, and an American Airlines spokesperson says the plane returned to the gate in Charlotte under its own power. It was a possible mechanical failure, but the airline didn’t specify the exact problem. 

“I did notice there were different crews stationed at different points along the runway,” said Rudicel of the emergency landing. “So, wherever we ended up stopping there would be fire trucks.” 

A replacement plane was used to continue the trip and this plane reached the destination. 

“It inspired a lot of camaraderie among the passengers,” said Rudicel. “And I think that any time you’re in a near-dangerous situation, you’re going to kind of find that with people you just want to look to the person next to you kind of connect and say, ‘you’re seeing this too, right?’”