Yesterday, an American Airlines flight headed to Dallas/Fort Worth returned to San Francisco International Airport when passengers noticed that the cabin walls were buckling and tearing apart.

Passenger James Wilson told ABC7 noises started after takeoff, "All of the sudden we heard this loud pop, pop, pop, pop, pop really loud and a ripping sound." He said that he thought the plane was breaking in half, "It was terrifying; we didn't know what was going on. We were all shouting for the flight crew, 'Come, look, the walls are caving in!"

He added that the flight crew asked passengers what they saw, "They kept asking. To the gal sitting in front of me, I said, 'Look in there, do you see daylight?'" Wilson did call the crew "very professional…[who] did a very good job keeping people calm. They said, 'It's just cosmetic.'" The AP explains, "Wilson took a photograph of what was happening and posted it on his Facebook page so his wife, who was en route to Dallas to pick him up, would know what had happened in case of a crash."

The plane, which was carrying 184 passengers and six crew members, had taken off at 1:15 p.m. and returned an hour later. An American Airlines spokesperson told the Chronicle that an "air duct" issue was to blame, "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." The spokesperson added that there was no cabin depressurization.

And an aeronautical engineer, Robert Ditchey, told the AP, "The plastic wall has no meaning to the safety of the plane. They are there so you don't have to look at the bare walls… On the other hand, it's not normal for this to happen to a side wall. Someone is going to have to fix this airplane."