American Airlines Flight 1862 from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to St. Louis was supposed to land at 8:30 Tuesday morning, but never made it because of landing gear problems.
The MD-80 jet turned around about 10 minutes into the flight, and the passengers were told to brace for a crash landing as the plane touched down at D/FW.
"They didn't say 'if' — they said, 'you'll be going down the chutes; take off your shoes if you've got heels on,'" said passenger Elaine Krieger.
A map on the FlightAware website showed the jet took off at 7:04 a.m., then turned around just north of Lewisville Lake, circled back and landed at D/FW.
American Airlines spokesman Jim Faulkner confirmed the flight turned back to D/FW without incident. Passengers were put on another plane, which was scheduled to arrive in St. Louis about three hours late.
As passengers reflected on the incident, some were left wondering if the landing gear concern was real. American Airlines and its pilots are in a heated labor dispute, and the company has accused the pilots of submitting an unusually high number of work orders, causing thousands of delays and cancellations.
Some of the passengers on the plane Tuesday were aware of that factor.
"Some people are cheering as we landed, and the rest of us are thinking, 'Is this a scenario they created... or was it real?'" wondered passenger Jeff Estes. "Are they really heroes, or are they guys just creating a job action?"
Whether the situation on Flight 1862 was genuine or otherwise, passengers aboard had a once-in-a lifetime experience.
"My husband was a pilot with American; I've flown a lot," Krieger said. "Never have I assumed the position."