Southwest Flight 1704 was coming in for its landing in Burbank right on schedule, about an hour after its 2:30 p.m. Saturday departure from Sacramento.
Among its 81 passengers were Paul Mitchell, vice president of a political consulting firm, and his lobbyist wife, Jodi Hicks, who were headed to a glitzy awards dinner in Los Angeles for Equality California, a gay rights advocacy group.
Then the pilot announced there was a malfunction with the wing flaps, requiring the plane to make an emergency landing across town at Los Angeles International Airport. And Mitchell did what any devotee of social media would do: He tweeted the experience to his more than 2,200 followers.
“So, our @southwest flight has a ‘flap malfunction,’ and they are determining if they have enough runway at Burbank to land,” wrote Mitchell, 44, who works for Political Data Inc. and lives in midtown Sacramento.
“They said they were looking for a longer runway, but we could tell that would be LAX,” Mitchell said in an interview on Sunday.
When the pilot made the initial announcement, he said, “At first, everybody was like, ‘What?’ People were looking around at each other. Nobody had been paying close attention. Then the pilot said we’d land at LAX.”
And then the plane dropped low in the sky as it roared its way across the sprawling grid below them.
“It’s like we skimmed the city,” Mitchell said. “And then we used basically the whole runway to land. Everybody clapped. We were grateful we landed safely.”
Or, as he tweeted moments after landing: “People in the back of the plane bummed we didn’t land at Burbank, but LAX is preferable to alternative. #malfunction.”
No one was injured in the landing, according to reports. Calls to Southwest Airlines requesting comment were not returned.
Mitchell said that Southwest told passengers they could stay on board and wait for the flaps to be repaired, or get ground transportation from Los Angeles International and skip the plane’s eventual hop back over to Burbank. Along with most of the passengers, he said, he and his wife disembarked at LAX.
But by Sunday morning, Mitchell and Hicks returned to the air for their return flight on Southwest to Sacramento.
“It was an uneventful flight,” he said. “But some of the passengers said to me, ‘I read your tweets yesterday.’ ”