‘I was scared’: Passengers evacuated onto tarmac at Charlotte Douglas when cabin fills with smoke

CHARLOTTE — Passengers on an American Airlines flight were evacuated after a ground emergency at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on Monday morning, according to the airline.

The flight with 60 passengers and four crew members was taxiing for takeoff to Melbourne, Florida, when an odor was reported in the cabin, a statement from American Airlines said.

Passengers exited the plane through boarding doors onto the ramp, according to the airline. They were then taken by bus back to the terminal to board another flight bound for their destination.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom was overhead as the aircraft stopped on a taxiway at Charlotte Douglas Monday morning.

A large emergency response could be seen, as well as dozens of people on the tarmac. People could be seen taking their luggage from the plane.

The American Airlines regional jet had arrived from Birmingham, Alabama, and was taxiing for takeoff bound for Melbourne Orlando International Airport, according to FlightAware plane tracking.

Channel 9′s Ken Lemon learned passengers were onboard and ready to take off before the emergency. They told him the plane was three quarters of the way down the runway when smoke filled the cabin.

“All of sudden everybody smelled smoke. The cabin started filling up with smoke,” passenger Kathy Arrigo said. “Next thing I know, the pilot says evacuate, evacuate, evacuate. I’m thinking the plane is on fire and we got to get off of it now.”

“I was scared. I didn’t know if it was a fire or what the deal was,” passenger George Hirth said.

The flight crew remained calm, according to passengers and helped them exit the plane quickly. Channel 9 saw passengers applauding the pilots and crew who kept cool heads and got everyone through the incident.

“I was in the back, so I went out on the wings, slid down the wings. People were great about helping each other. The crew was amazing. It was pretty scary though,” Arrigo said.

Passengers stood just off the runway while firefighters checked out the airplane, and within minutes, they were escorted back to the gate.

Channel 9 learned passengers were boarding a new plane and set to take off for Melbourne after 12 p.m.

FAA reports show that this aircraft had two prior issues in the last year, including fumes in the cockpit connected with an electrical smoke odor in December.

American Airlines said no one was hurt, but officials haven’t officially said what caused the smoke.

Statement from American Airlines:

“Shortly after 9:30 a.m. ET, American Eagle Flight 5594 operated by PSA Airlines, halted takeoff from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) due to reports of a potential odor in the cabin. The aircraft stopped safely on the taxiway where customers were asked to deplane through boarding doors onto the ramp. Buses were used to transport customers back to the terminal where they are expected to board another aircraft for continuing service to Melbourne, Florida (MLB). We thank our customers for their patience and our flight crew for their efforts to ensure the safety of all those on board.”

Statement from Charlotte Douglas International Airport:

“There was a request for assistance regarding a possible odor on board the aircraft. Per protocol, emergency crews have responded and buses are returning passengers to the terminal.”

This is a developing story. Check wsoctv.com for updates.

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