An F-18 fighter jet from the Spanish Air Force was scrambled to escort the stricken plane as it circled Madrid burning off fuel ahead of the landing. Fire engines were seen rushing to the plane after it touched down on the tarmac but no fire was reported.
Video footage recorded by a passenger on board shows the military jet flying alongside the plane, which is reportedly carrying 128 passengers.
According to Spain’s main pilot union, SEPLA, the aircraft lost pieces of its landing gear on takeoff from Madrid's Barajas airport. The aircraft was then forced to circle the airport for hours to burn fuel in order to reach the maximum allowed weight to make a safe landing.
During the incident the plane's pilot told passengers there was a "small problem with one of the wheels of the plane during takeoff" and that they were burning fuel before returning to Madrid, Spain’s national broadcaster TVE is reporting.
The pilot also urged the passengers to remain calm and be patient. Passenger Carlos Castañeda tweeted that they were told that they had only lost one wheel. He also posted video footage from inside the jet saying: “Everything is calm here”.
Eyewitness video purporting to show the plane flying unusually low over the Madrid suburbs has been uploaded online. According to Flightradar24 the aircraft involved, a Boeing 767-300ER, is about 30 years old.
The incident unfolded just hours after a drone sighting shut down the airport for over an hour, causing delays and forcing authorities to divert 26 flights. The airport operator said that was prepared to receive the flight and is fully operational despite its earlier closure.
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