OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - A Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Chicago Wednesday morning had to be turned around because of apparent issues with the plane's landing gear but managed to land safely at Oakland International Airport.
Southwest Flight 2547 took off at about 6 a.m. from Oakland and was headed to Chicago's Midway International Airport with 139 passengers on board, but the captain in command decided to turn around because of the maintenance issue, Southwest officials said.
Jeffrey Atkins, who posted on Twitter from the plane, wrote that the problem appeared to be with equipment on the left side of the plane.
"Something on left side was making a banging noise, flashing orange light shortly after takeoff as the gear was retracted," Atkins wrote.
He wrote that there were no other anomalies before the "smooth and uneventful" landing around 10:15 a.m.
The plane flew for a few hours to burn off fuel in case it crashed during the emergency landing, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.
Firefighters escorted the plane to the gate after the landing and turned it over to Southwest officials. The Oakland Fire Department had sent one truck and four engines in case the plane caught on fire, a fire dispatcher said.
KTVU spoke with several passengers who said they knew something was wrong almost immediately after takeoff.
"We heard almost what sounded like a gun popping…and then saw flames. The whole side of our plane lit up," said passenger Kristen Hubrig. "I thought it was the end. I thought we were going down."
"Well I knew I was in trouble right away when we were taking off. I looked off to the side on the plane to the left and there were flames, sparks and some loud gunshot-like noises," said passenger Chris Sindelar.
"It sounded terrible, frankly," said Matt Plotke when he was describing the landing gear. Leslie Plotke said the crew was great and handled themselves professionally.
Southwest officials said the aircraft will be taken out of service for inspection and that the airline is working to get the passengers to their destinations.
"With everything we do, safety is of paramount importance and we appreciate our customers' patience while we work to get them to their destinations for their holidays," Southwest said in a statement.
Some passengers found alternate flights to Chicago, but others decided they were done flying for the holidays and decided to go home.
Atkins wrote shortly before noon that he had already booked a new flight.
"Gotta get back on the horse, right?" he said.
He also thanked the flight crew for getting everyone down safely.
"The best emergencies are the uneventful and boring ones," he wrote.