UK

747 Forced Into Gatwick Emergency Landing By Landing Gear Problem

29/12/2014 15:29 GMT | Updated 30/12/2014 09:59 GMT

A Boeing 747 was forced to make an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport after the aircraft suffered a landing gear problem midair.

The aircraft appears to have landed safely after it circled repeatedly between Gatwick and the South coast apparently to burn off fuel.

The Virgin Atlantic plane took off from the West Sussex late this morning bound for Las Vegas.

According to eyewitnesses, one of the five landing gears on the Boeing 747 jumbo jet had failed to deploy.

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The plane after its landing

Virgin said: "Virgin Atlantic can confirm that flight VS43 on December 29, travelling to McCarran International Airport Las Vegas, returned to Gatwick due to a technical issue with one of the landing gears."

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The path of the plane before it landed

A Gatwick airport spokesman said: “We can confirm that Virgin Atlantic flight VS043 which departed Gatwick airport at around 11.45am is returning after the aircraft developed a technical fault.

“In line with standard procedure, emergency services are on standby at the airport purely as a precaution.”

Minutes before the plane attempted to land, former pilot Roger Guiver told the BBC: "It could be a simple hydraulic problem. They will be getting the aircraft as light as possible ready for a landing.

"Everything is practised in the simulator and it's now that all the training pays off."

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was on standby at Gatwick following the alert.

Trains were also reportedly being held just as the landing was attempted.

Television pictures showed the plane at a halt safely on the runway.

There was apparently no need for an immediate response by emergency crews although within a few minutes the flashing lights of emergency vehicles could be seen close to the plane.

Pictures posted on Twitter of the aircraft circling Gatwick showed damage to the landing gear of the aircraft.

Describing the mood on the plane as it was circling, passenger Dan Crane, 24, said it was "anxious, a lot were worried, some crying. The mood was quiet and (we were) just waiting for the captain's next announcement."

Mr Crane, who is with family and friends, said the crew kept everyone informed, adding: "They said it was an emergency landing and we had to brace on impact."

Passenger Mike Kaufman, speaking from his seat on the plane back at Gatwick, said: "This was one of the greatest emergency landings in history. It was very smooth."

He praised the pilots and the cabin crew, saying the landing had been "textbook".

Interviewed for Sky News, he went on: "We didn't realise there would be such a fuss. It was such a calm, experience. About half an hour out they said we would have to go back to Gatwick. They said it was a hydraulic problem.

"The fact everything went so well shows just how professional the flight crew were. The crew were calm. We had a safety briefing two hours before we landed and when we were told we would have to go into the brace position for landings a sigh went around the plane."

Mr Kaufman continued: "People got used to the idea that we were going to have to land back at Gatwick. The crew were very calm and that made the passengers calm."