HOLIDAYMAKERS have told of their terror after their aeroplane dropped rapidly towards mountains and was forced to make an emergency landing.
The travellers, who were flying from Italy to England on Ryanair, heard the pilot calling "mayday" just 15 minutes after they had taken off as cabin pressure dropped.
As the pressure in the cabin began to drop, the 134 passengers were said to watch as they descended towards the snow-capped Swiss Alps at a rate of 4,200ft a minute.
The pilot, who had taken off from Bergamo, Italy, released oxygen masks and was forced to land the Boeing 737 at Frankfurt, Germany.
It is understood three passengers were treated in hospital, with ten passengers receiving minor injuries.
All other passengers were checked by doctors in Germany for damage to their ears, as a Ryanair spokesman said they could not explain why the pressure had dropped.
Melvin Frater, a 55-year-old grandfather from Nottingham, told the Times newspaper he and his wife Jacqueline “could see through the window that the Alps were coming up fast” as the plane dropped to 10,000ft.
He said: “We came down about four miles in five minutes, and the pressure on our ears was tremendous. When that started to happen, we just thought ‘This is it’.
“We were just falling towards the earth and until he [the pilot] actually levelled up, we were just thinking, ‘It’s our time’.”
“Initially, we were all in shock. But there was nothing you could do, and that’s why everyone was so calm.”
Mrs Frater added: “People were panicking, but they weren’t screaming or shouting.”
A Ryanair spokesman said: “Flight FR1703 (Milan to East Midlands) diverted to Frankfurt Hahn after the captain identified a pressurisation warning, deployed the oxygen masks, and descended to 10,000ft as recommended.
"Ryanair apologises sincerely to all passengers affected by this diversion and delay.”