It began almost as soon as he stepped onto the plane.
As Emerson Collins, a film producer and nonprofit director, boarded his American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Dallas on Sept. 6, a bizarre noise from the plane's intercom system flooded the cabin: a loud groan — or was it a moan? — laced with pain — or was it pleasure?
It was difficult to discern.
"It was either someone's unfortunate food poisoning in the bathroom or, like, someone with an uncomfortable approach to personal satisfaction," Collins said. "Literally, it was halfway between an orgasm and vomiting."
Passengers seemed confused but also amused, he said. By the third guttural outburst, Collins joked with a flight attendant about the pilot, asking "Is he OK?"
Flight attendants announced that there was no cause for concern and that the sounds weren't coming from the crew, Collins said. He shrugged it off.
But then it happened again just after takeoff. And several times after that.
For the first half-hour of the flight, the noise returned every two to three minutes, Collins estimated, so he took out his phone and began recording. Many people were snoozing, and some had slipped on their headphones, but Collins, delighting in the hilarity of it, wanted the full experience, he said.
"Weirdest. Flight. Ever," the video begins. And then, the moaning. Or was it groaning?
At one point during Collins' two-minute video, a flight attendant comes over the P.A. system: "Ladies and gentlemen, we realize there is an extremely irritating sound coming over the public announcements," the attendant says. "The flight deck is trying to troubleshoot, trying to turn it off, so please be patient with us. We know this is a very odd anomaly and none of us are enjoying it."