United passengers describe tense emergency landing

Story highlights

  • The plane descended from 28,000 feet in just 15 minutes
  • Passengers said they smelled smoke and there might have been a fire
  • There were 199 passengers on board and seven crew

(CNN)Passengers described on social media a scary landing Thursday morning after a United Airlines flight over California had an in-flight emergency.

United Flight 1181, a Boeing 757 that was flying from Los Angeles to Washington, had to divert to Ontario International Airport, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration. The flight, with 199 passengers and seven crew members, landed safely.
"We had to make an emergency landing in Ontario CA today after we smelled smoke and they discovered a small fire in the fuselage," said Instagram user Todd Palmerton, a passenger on the plane. "Our pilot was incredible, but it's pretty nerve racking having to text your wife that you love her while the pilot flys a 777 like its a navy fighter jet."
    Another passenger, Allen Hill wrote on Facebook that there was a "slight smell of smoke inside and a hot spot detected in the fuselage from the exterior."
    Hill said the Ontario fire department had to hose down the airliner's brakes, which overheated during the fast, hard landing.
    Twitter user Mitchell Hashimoto also praised the pilot, saying the captain handled the emergency "super fast and professionally."
    The plane was at about 28,400 feet when it began its descent, which actually took about 15 minutes, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.
    United didn't confirm there was a fire on board, saying the plane diverted because of a burning smell.
    "Our maintenance team is reviewing the aircraft, and we're working as quickly as possible to get our customers to Washington, D.C.," the airline said.
    According to Hill's Facebook page, passengers boarded the rescheduled flight to Dulles at 2:30 p.m. P.T.