A Virgin Atlantic passenger plane has landed safely at London's Gatwick Airport after discovering a problem with part of its main landing gear.Virgin flight VS43 with 447 passengers and 15 crew was travelling from Gatwick to Las Vegas when it had to return.
The Boeing 747 circled over southern England for several hours dumping fuel before making a bumpy but safe landing just before 16:00 GMT.Gatwick's runway is shut to all air traffic causing severe delays.Aircraft due to land at Gatwick are being diverted to other London airports, while departing flights are being delayed. Passengers are being advised to check the airport's website or contact their airline.
Flashing lights of emergency vehicles could be seen close to the plane, which appeared to have landed without its full set of landing gear.Ambulances and fire-and-rescue crews had been on standby as the plane circled the airport in the hours after it took off for the US late on Monday morning.
Before the successful conclusion to the incident, Virgin announced the plane would be carrying out a "non-standard landing procedure" at Gatwick airport.
|(Pictures of the 747 circling over East Sussex - to burn off fuel - were shared on social media)|
|(Virgin announced the plane would be carrying out a "non-standard landing procedure")|
|(The problem affected part of the 747's right main landing gear)|
|(The issue meant the aircraft had to land on three of its four main landing gear)|
|(Emergency crews at Gatwick were quick to the scene)|
Nick Hughes, who was on board, said the crew made several attempts to try to free the landing gear."They put the thrust on quite heavily and then dipped down, I think, to try and loosen the gears but obviously nothing kind of worked.
"They gave it every opportunity before they tried the emergency landing. All credit due to the crew and the staff and of course the pilots because the landing was probably one of the softest landings I've ever had."Another passenger, Hardeek Desai, said: "The staff were trying to keep everyone calm but a few passengers were a bit panicky. One of the crew came out to the seating area to reassure everyone everything was going to be OK.
"The staff were giving out thing like drinks and water to everyone to make sure everyone's OK. Generally, the mood was pretty good at this point until we hit the brace position."Describing the mood on the plane as it was circling, passenger Dan Crane, 24, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, said it was "anxious, a lot were worried, some crying. The mood was quiet, 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."Sunjay Patel told the BBC: "It's been a rollercoaster. Yesterday I found out that I was going to Vegas for my 30th birthday, and not going to Vegas today it's been quite a crazy 24 hours. I can't wait to get to Vegas to enjoy it now."He said the passengers had been taken to a hotel but they did not know when there would be a replacement flight.
Another passenger, Mike Kaufman, 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".
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: "I am very pleased to confirm that all customers and crew have now disembarked the VS43 flight to Las Vegas, which returned to Gatwick airport this afternoon following a problem with one of the landing gear.
"I understand that this will have been a very upsetting situation for the customers involved, and for their friends and family, and will have significantly disrupted people's holiday plans."We will make sure they are well looked after this evening, and will be operating a special flight tomorrow for everyone who would like to continue their journey."
Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson tweeted: "Well done @VirginAtlantic pilots & team for safe & skilful landing of #VS43. Thoughts with passengers & crew, thanks for support & patience."'Well-rehearsed' Gatwick Airport said in a statement: "Virgin Atlantic flight VS043 landed safely after returning to Gatwick earlier this afternoon due to a technical fault. Following the emergency landing, passengers disembarked the aircraft via stairs.
"The runway is currently closed to allow the aircraft to be removed. Currently no flights are departing Gatwick and inbound flights are being diverted to other airports. "We advise passengers to check with their airlines on the status of their flight. Updates will also be posted on the Gatwick website and on Twitter.
"We are working with our airline partners to provide food, drink and welfare facilities for those passengers whose flights may either have been delayed or cancelled. Gatwick staff and volunteers are being made available throughout the airport to offer passengers advice and the latest information."Ch Supt Martin Walker, of Sussex Police, said the emergency operation was part of a "well-rehearsed procedure".
He said: "We are delighted that the plane has landed safely and we will continue to support the operation where we're needed."Easyjet said some of its flights to and from Gatwick may be affected because of the blocked runway.A spokesman for British pilots' organisation Balpa said: "Pilots train hard for exactly this kind of situation. It goes to show that well-trained pilots are vital."
|Route taken by Virgin flight VS43|