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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Delta Flight 5763 was making its run from Santa Ana, California to Seattle when the bottom fell out.

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Passengers described the encounter with turbulence this way, “So scary I mean, we’re lucky that the pilot got us out of it. It was like we were dying.”

Passengers in the back of the plane could not believe what they were seeing, “I saw the drink card hit the ceiling, along with the flight attendant who was doing the drink service.”

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That kind of severe turbulence is, “Something you just you just fly into without warning,” says Peter Gall, Ph.D. who has logged more than 16,000 hours in the cockpit of US Airways jets, “and you don’t see it and you just run into it that is usually a short or small, isolated area.”

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Now a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at WVU Dr. Gall says there are little questions what the Delta flight hit “was severe turbulence.”

The one time NASA pilot says while the passengers described the plane as being in a nose dive, he doesn’t doubt the feeling of a sudden drop, but says a dive is doubtful, “The airplane will shake rapidly and in bounce around but it doesn’t really gain or lose a lot of altitude and generally you’re able to hold the wings level.”

Dr. Gall says there is no doubt that kind of turbulence will shake up the passengers but for the crew, its part of the routine of what they do and the plane can take it. “The airplanes have a lot of structural integrity and the turbulence generally doesn’t hurt the airplane.”

The Delta flight made an emergency landing in Reno and the flight attendant and four passengers were taken to the hospital for treatment.

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Dr. Gall says from the cockpit to the back of the plane no one likes turbulence, but it’s rarely a threat to the plane or its passengers. But he also adds pay attention to fasten seat belt light and if its one, keep your belt buckled for your own safety.