Hero Virgin pilot lands 747 jumbo jet full of weeping passengers on this broken landing gear after fault forces return to Gatwick
- Plane turned round after take-off and made dramatic landing at 3.45pm
- Boeing 747's starboard landing gear was stuck and refused to drop down
- Jet originally bound for Las Vegas circled London for several hours
- Passengers sobbed as they were forced to adopt the brace position
- But they then cheered and clapped as the plane landed safely
Crying passengers on board a transatlantic flight were forced to adopt the brace position when their plane landed at Gatwick without its full set of landing gear.
The Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 with up to 400 people on board was meant to go to Las Vegas but was forced to return to London after developing a technical fault shortly after take-off.
For several hours the jumbo jet circled the airport and made several low-altitude passes so engineers could inspect the landing gear problem, leaving some passengers distraught.
Passenger Dan Crane, 24, from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, said the mood before the landing was 'anxious'.
He said: 'A lot were worried, some crying. They said it was an emergency landing and we had to brace on impact.'
But the terrified passengers then cheered and applauded the hero pilot after he landed the jumbo jet safely
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Back on the ground: This is the Virgin Atlantic jet during its risky landing at Gatwick this afternoon
Zoom: The pilot managed to land the jet with hundreds on board without all the landing gear in place
Safe: Emergency services were on standby for the landing and surrounded the plane on the runway
Rescue: Emergency services board to plane to let off the very relieved passengers involved in the dramatic landing
Emergency landing: A Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Las Vegas is back on the ground after its pilot landed it with only
three-quarters of its landing gear down
Close up: This image shows how three-quarters of the landing gear is down - but one set of wheels on the starboard wing are not
Route: The jet was heading across the Atlantic when it turned back over Devon, left, and circled Gatwick several times
The jet appeared to be flying with only three quarters of its landing gear down after a set of wheels on the starboard wing refused to drop, but the pilot still managed to land it safely.
The plane had to turn back towards London over the Devon coast less than 30 minutes after taking off for America at just before midday today.
The jet landed at Gatwick at 3.45pm today and is stood on the runway surrounded by the emergency services.
Passengers on board were asked to adopt the brace position as the plane came in to land.
Mike Kaufman, who was on the plane, said it would go down as one of the 'greatest emergencies in history'.
He said: 'When we landed you can imagine the relief.
'We were told the plane had a hydraulic problem but were not told that it was the wheels.
'We were told about the brace position around two hours before we landed and ran through it several times before we landed. The crew were calm and that made us calm.
'The landing was smoother than others I've had. It was probably less dramatic on board than it was watching it on TV.
'It is going to go down as one of the greatest emergency landings in history'.
Newly-wed website user Alexia posted a picture of her and her husband earlier today as they went to board the flight,
next to the message: 'We are on our way.'
But she later tweeted: 'Yup, that's my plane on the BBC News right now! #vegas #v043 will I ever get to Vegas??
After the plane landed, she wrote: 'Despite what we've just been through, we actually would quite like to get on another plane #VS43
'Biggest round of applause I've ever heard for a pilot landing. He's kept us informed the whole time of everything #VS43'
Other passengers also took to Twitter after touching down to thank the flight crew.
Kelly Coates tweeted: '#VS43 currently on board the Virgin Atlantic Flight VS43. Massive thank you to all of the crew for keeping everyone calm and safe ??'
Fate Swan wrote: '@virginatlantic the cabin crew and the pilot have been absolutely amazing and have been keeping us all calm and informed #VS43'
Another posted: 'Top marks to Dave the pilot and all the excellent Virgin cabin crew for bringing us back to Earth safe and sound. #vs43'.
Fault: This picture taken moments before the Gatwick landing shows how part of the landing gear had not deployed
Tributes: Passengers said that the crew on board were calm which made them calm
Trouble: This Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Las Vegashad to return to London after developing a fault
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: 'Virgin Atlantic flight VS043 has landed safely after returning to Gatwick due to a technical fault. Following the emergency landing, passengers have disembarked the aircraft via stairs. At this time, only minor injuries have been reported.
'The runway has been closed until the aircraft can be removed from the runway and based on current predictions it is not expected to reopen until at least 18.00. 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.'
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman said: 'We can confirm that flight VS43 has landed safely back at Gatwick. Our priority now is to look after our passengers and crew'.
Before it landed the plane made at least one low-level pass over the London Gatwick so engineers could observe the problem.
Others who saw the jet circling around the airport said the pilot was 'tipping the wings' to try to use gravity to drop down the final part of the 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 United States.
Before the successful landing, Virgin announced that the plane would be carrying out a 'non-standard landing procedure' at Gatwick airport =
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: 'We can confirm that Virgin Atlantic flight VS043 which departed Gatwick Airport at around 11.45am is returning to Gatwick after the aircraft developed a technical fault.
'In line with standard procedure, emergency services are on standby at the airport purely as a precaution.'
A dramatic photograph showed the jumbo jet landing at Gatwick with the right-side wing landing gear not deployed.
In November 1997 a Virgin Atlantic captain Tim Barnby won praise for safely landing a Virgin Atlantic Airbus plane at Heathrow after a landing-gear problem.
The plane, flying in from Los Angeles carrying 98 passengers and 16 crew, managed to touch down using three instead of four sets of landing gear.
Nine passengers were treated for minor injuries. Virgin said it had been 'fantastic flying'.
Long wait: The plane was circling several hours as it burned off the fuel before the emergency landing