Passengers hail hero after terrifying landing as Boeing 767 skids along runway on its belly
- Astonishingly, nobody is injured in the emergency at Warsaw as pilot is hailed a hero by Poland's president
- Passengers were sobbing and saying their goodbyes, reveals relative
- All flights cleared at capital's airport and nearby streets evacuated ahead of the landing
Passengers have revealed their terror after an aeroplane carrying 230 people was forced into an emergency landing at an airport following a catastrophic equipment failure.
The pilot was forced to bring the Boeing 767 in to land at Warsaw airport with no wheels after all its landing gear failed. The aircraft skidded along the tarmac on its belly, sparks flying, and a fire broke out in the starboard engine before it came to a halt.
Incredibly nobody on the flight, which came from Newark, New Jersey, was injured but after disembarking passengers spoke of their alarm.
'I was praying for the pilot not to lose control because we started to make circles over the airport. It was terrible,' said passenger Teresa Kowalik.
Terrifying touch down: The Boeing 767 hits the ground in Warsaw on its belly after a catastrophic failure of all its landing gear
Relief: Passengers from the Boeing 767 were confronted with a media scrum as they disembarked the plane following an horrendous ordeal
Upset: Some traumatised passengers did not want to speak to reporters as they tried to leave the airport but, right, others relived their ordeal for the news crews
Broken but unbowed: The Boeing 767 sits on the tarmac at Warsaw airport tonight having stood up to the impact of the emergency landing
'We owe everything to the pilot. He really did a great job.'
The pilot told passengers four hours into the flight that the plane faced technical problems said a passenger who only gave her first name, Malgorzata.
'The pilot addressed us a number of times and said we should follow instructions. Later, a flight attendant said there might be a fire, and at that point people began to get nervous and uncertain,' she said.
The landing was not especially hard but the situation became alarming when sparks and black smoke rose from the plane, said Krzysztof Rozycki, a 17-year-old passenger.
A relative of a passenger said some on board panicked, crying and bidding final farewells to each other.
Relatives of passengers waiting at the airport sought information as the emergency unfolded.
Drama: Flames and sparks burst from the aircraft as it slides along the ground without any means of braking
Rescue: Fire engines spray fire retardant foam on the LOT Polish airlines plane after it comes to a standstill. Astonishingly none of the 230 people on board was injured
Knock-on effect: Passengers sit next to their luggage as flights were cancelled at Warsaw airport because of the incident with the Boeing 767
Joanna Dabrowska, 29, managed to speak to her mother-in-law, a passenger, via mobile phone after she evacuated the flight. Dabrowska said some of the passengers apparently feared the worst.
'People were saying their final farewells to each other and some were sobbing,' she said.
Dabrowska was among a group of relatives waiting at the airport in a special room. Her mother-in-law was returning home after a month-long visit to Clinton, New Jersey.
According to the mother-in-law, passengers removed their shoes and evacuated the plane using the emergency slide.
'She was in shock, but she was fine,' said Dabrowska. She declined to give her mother-in-law's name because she didn't have her permission.
Other relatives at the airport would not talk to reporters. One woman whose husband and two sons were on board said she was relieved, but was shaking and declined to give her name or say more.
Passengers were taken to a medical center and were examined by doctors, said Przemyslaw Przybylski, a spokesman for the Warsaw airport.
Miraculous: Passengers escaped down the plane's emergency chutes after the landing at Warsaw. No one was injured
The captain, Tadeusz Wrona, has been hailed a hero by Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowsk, as well as by the airport staff and the Polish media.
LOT airlines president, Marcin Pirog, said that Captain Tadeusz Wrona and co-pilot Jerzy Szwartz carried out a 'perfect emergency landing,' which prevented anyone from being injured.
'It is the first time a LOT plane had to land without the landing gear out,' said Pirog, before adding that such landings do not always end well.
Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski congratulated and thanked the crew and emergency workers for ensuring no one was hurt.
'I thank everyone with my whole heart in the name of Poland,' said Komorowski.
The airport has been closed until 8am on Wednesday. Flights which had been scheduled to land in Warsaw have been diverted to Lodz, Gdansk and Krakow.
Safe landing: The Boeing 767 came down on foam sprayed on the tarmac in an attempt to dampen any fires that broke out
As the situation unfolded emergency services were waiting at the end of the runway to deal with any potential disaster, while two F-16 fighter jets escorted it to the ground.
The pilot had radioed ahead to let the control tower know there was a problem with deploying the landing gear. After several attempts, however, it was decided that the aircraft would have to come down without any wheels.
While the plane circled the Polish capital for an hour, dumping excess fuel and repeatedly trying to solve the problem, ground crews prepared for a crash landing, closing the airport to all other flights and clearing nearby streets. Waiting fire crews also sprayed the runway with foam in a bid to prevent a fire from breaking out.
The pilot lifted the nose of the aircraft slightly as it approached the tarmac. As it slid along the runway, smoke billowed from the undercarriage followed by bright flashes from under the engines.
When it came to a halt, fire engines that were waiting along the sides and at the end of the tarmac rushed towards the plane, dowsing it with foam. Meanwhile, passengers were quickly taken off down the inflatable chutes on either side.
News channels and TV crews were on the scene soon after learning about the emergency and the incredible landing was beamed live around the world.
'All safety procedures worked perfectly fine and, thanks to this, nobody was injured,' said Leszek Chorzewski, spokesman for the Polish national flag carrier LOT, operator of the plane.