None of the 142 passengers and five crew members were injured during the evacuation, though medical personnel tended to three passengers at the scene, and one other was taken to a hospital for observation, airport spokesperson Cassie Perez-Harmison said.
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Flight 1416 was bound for Austin, Texas, when the crew declared an emergency after an "overheat warning" for one of its two engines, Perez-Harmison said.
One of the passengers, Dean Delbaugh, said that about 10 minutes into the flight, he heard a pop, felt a weird vibration and then smelled an odd stench. Delbaugh was flying to Austin to visit in-laws with his wife.
"Smoke came billowing out of the air vents, and filled up the cabin in about 10 to 15 seconds," Delbaugh said by telephone from his home in Dana Point, California. "The fumes were ridiculous. I can still kind of taste them in my mouth."
Flight attendants manually deployed oxygen masks, which are designed to automatically drop only in the event of a loss of cabin pressure.
The pilot activated a fire-suppression system within the engine, but it was not immediately known whether there was a fire, JetBlue spokesperson Anders Lindstrom said. Long Beach fire personnel told reporters they saw no sign of flames, though they did not look inside the engine.
As the plane landed, the pilot told passengers to brace themselves, Delbaugh said. "As soon as I saw the runway, it was a sigh of relief," he said. "I didn't care if landing gear came down. We could slide down the runway as long we were on the ground."
According to the tracking website FlightAware, the Airbus A320 took off at 9:17 a.m. PT and landed at 9:30 a.m.
The airport's main runway was closed for about two hours due to the evacuation. Eventually, the plane was towed away for further investigation, and air traffic resumed.
Technical problems causing planes to make emergency landings are not rare; however a cabin filling with smoke is less common. Even so, another plane was evacuated after the cabin filled with smoke earlier this month. On Sept. 4, a Jet2 airplane was evacuated; no injuries were reported after that incident.