Delta flight alarms passengers with abrupt 30,000-foot descent

The FAA said it’s investigating after a “pressurization issue” that forced a Delta Air Lines flight to declare an emergency and unexpectedly descend close to 30,000 feet Wednesday.

Flight 2353 was en-route from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale when the pilot diverted, landing at Tampa International Airport at about 5:10 p.m., the FAA said in a statement.

The plane involved was a Boeing 767-300, according to the FAA. Boeing has had a tough year since its 737 MAX jets were grounded following a pair of fatal crashes. The company didn’t immediately respond to questions about the 767-300’s safety record, but Delta spokesman Anthony Black said the airline has not noticed any trend of safety problems with the aircraft, which have been in service for years.

The 180-foot planes have two wing-mounted engines and seat 261 people, according to Delta.

Black said the flight's captain received an indicator warning about a potential pressurization issue, but the airline hasn't yet determined whether it was a real problem or a false alarm. Data from the plane-tracking website FlightAware show the jet descended from 39,000 feet to about 10,000 feet.

Passengers tweeted pictures showing that oxygen masks deployed as the plane quickly dropped in altitude.

“I texted my wife and dad I loved them,” one passenger wrote. “Told my mom I love her and hugged my son.”

Passengers also praised the crew for helping keep people calm during the emergency.

“One of the flight attendants, I believe, grabbed the intercom and was just repeatedly over the intercom stating, ‘Do no panic. Do not panic,’ but obviously it’s a hectic moment so the passengers around me — a lot of people were kind of hyperventilating, breathing really hard,” passenger Harris Dewoskin told Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta.

Black said the pilots, flight attendants and crew “operated in a way that reflected both their training as well as their professionalism.”

In a statement to FOX News, Delta apologized to the passengers and said its maintenance teams were evaluating the aircraft. The passengers were bused the rest of the way to Fort Lauderdale.