An American Airlines Boeing 757-200 was forced to return to San Francisco just a short time ago. Passengers on American flight 2293 from SFO to Dallas-Fort Worth witnessed cabin panels separating from the walls of the aircraft, accompanied by a loud bang as it happened.
The plane hasn't been back on the ground long, so we don't yet know a cause or whether the plane or its passengers or crew were ever in any real danger, but there's no doubt it scared the hell out of some people.
Photo by passenger James Wilson
From the interior photos, we can see that the oxygen masks never dropped. There's no sunlight coming through so it also doesn't appear that the plane was trying to tear open. Looking through Boeing 757 airworthiness directives, there are no outstanding issues related to this within the past several years. Once we know more, or hear something from American Airlines, we'll update this story.
UPDATE: 7:48PM EDT — Matt Miller from American Airlines said an "air duct issue" caused the interior wall panels to come apart from the side of the plane's fuselage. He confirmed that there was no depressurization. "When they realized those panels came loose, the captain decided it was best to return to San Francisco and landed the plane there safely. They declared an emergency because it was an unscheduled landing."