A Fokker 100 Virgin flight from Perth to Boolgeeda Airport was forced to turn back after a “decompression issue” was reported.
Oxygen masks dropped, and pilots lowered the aircraft from 30,000 feet to 10,000 feet before it was met by emergency services on the tarmac.
Virgin Regional played down the incident, saying the decision to return was caused by a cockpit light suggesting a “minor engineering issue”.
Flight VA9407 took off from Perth at 1:15pm on 2 March and was heading to Boolgeeda Airport in Pilbara, which serves the Rio Tinto Brockman 4 iron ore mine.
Half an hour into the flight, 7 News reports, a decompression issue was reported, and pilots lowered the altitude before returning to Perth.
The 100-seater Fokker 100 touched down after 2:30pm, before emergency services met the 20 passengers on the ground.
Passenger Joel Grose, 32, told 7 News, “I had my headphones in, watching a movie, and I heard a bang, and everything dropped down.
“That’s when everyone thought, ‘hang on, this is real’ because you felt it drop a little, so there was a bit of concern there.”
A standard Fokker 100 is 35.53 metres long and features two Rolls-Royce Tay Mk 650-15 engines, and cruises at 35,000 feet. The Dutch planemaker behind the popular aircraft went bankrupt in 1996.
Virgin said in a statement, “VARA flight VA9407, travelling from Perth to Boolgeeda on Monday, 2 March, landed safely in Perth without incident.
“In line with standard operating procedures, the Captain decided to return to Perth as a precautionary measure after a cockpit indication light illuminated during the flight, suggesting the possibility of a minor engineering issue.
“The safety of our guests and crew is our top priority, and we will always exercise caution in these situations to ensure that our aircraft can land as soon as possible and be assessed.
“All guests travelled on an alternative service to Boolgeeda on the same day.”