Passengers on a CityJet flight from London City Airport to Florence, Italy, got a terrifying shock shortly after takeoff Thursday — and the disturbing sight they saw was caught on video by a journalist for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The plane, a British Aerospace Avro RJ85 — one of 23 in the fleet of the Ireland-based regional airline, like the aircraft pictured above — took off at 7:25 am local time Thursday morning, which is 2:25 am U.S. Eastern Time, and had been airborne for only a few moments when the 61 passengers aboard heard a loud bang resound through the 95-seat aircraft.
“The bang made people jump and was alarming then we sat there thinking this isn’t right, surely?” said Telegraph reporter Cole Moreton, who was aboard the flight filled with holiday-makers.
They looked out the window and they saw the exact sight that no airline passenger ever wants to see. A large piece of the wing on the port — that is, left — side of the plane was hanging off.
Moreton immediately recorded the frightening sight on video. But the plane stayed in the air — flying, it seemed, normally.
“A six-foot plus section of the left wing that looked like it suddenly came loose and hung down, flapping in the jetstream,” said Moreton. “It seemed hydraulic pistons had snapped as they were flapping too. Passengers were alarmed and told the cabin staff, who appeared to inform the captain.”
But the captain handled the emergency expertly. He conferred by radio with CityJet maintenance supervisors and they decided that the best move was to turn the plane around.
After circling over the Thames Estuary, the outlet where the Thames river that runs through London connects with the North Sea, the pilot brought the plane in for a safe landing back at London City Airport, where emergency crews were waiting.
None of the passengers were injured — just terrified.
“The cover of the operating mechanism on the wing became partially detached,” explained CityJet in a statement following the emergency landing. “Passengers are being re-directed on another aircraft and will depart with a two hour delay.”
The fearless passengers were apparently not too badly shaken up to get right back on another plane and head for their Italian vacations.