updated 3/12/2007 10:16:58 PM ET 2007-03-13T02:16:58

An All Nippon Airways passenger plane with 60 people aboard made a successful emergency landing Tuesday after circling an airport in western Japan for nearly two hours when its front landing gear failed to descend.

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No one was injured when the Bombardier DHC-8 turboprop made a controlled landing on its rear wheels and then carefully touched its nose to the runway.

Sparks shot from the bottom of the white and blue fuselage as the plane skidded to a halt, but the pilot kept it on the tarmac. Public broadcaster NHK showed rescue trucks spraying the plane with fire retardant chemicals and relieved passengers deboarding. Transportation Ministry spokesman Tetsu Shimizu said there were no injuries.

The plane was carrying 56 passengers and four crew members and was scheduled to land at Kochi airport in western Japan shortly before 9 a.m., the airline said. It circled for nearly two hours as it tried to extend its front wheels and negotiate an emergency landing.

The cause of the failure is not yet known, ANA spokesman Daisuke Kato said. The Transportation Ministry planned to launch an investigation, Shimizu said.

In February 2006, another Canadian-made Bombardier plane operated by ANA experienced landing gear problems. That pilot aborted an initial landing attempt after all three sets of wheels failed to deploy. The landing gear were later deployed manually, and none of the 25 passengers and crew was injured.

Later that month, two ANA-operated Bombardier airliners made emergency landings at Osaka airport shortly after taking off. One had problems with its heating system, while a warning lamp in the other signaled something was wrong with one of its doors. No one was injured.

The plane on Tuesday had made an earlier approach to the runway but pulled up. It was unclear whether the pilot was practicing a touchdown or trying to use up fuel to reduce the risk of fire in the event of a crash landing.

The plane had left Osaka airport earlier in the morning.

The worst single airplane disaster in history occurred in Japan in 1985, when a Japan Airlines Boeing jumbo jet crashed into a remote mountain, killing 520 of the 524 people aboard.

The jet was en route from Tokyo to Osaka when it lost control of its vertical tail section.

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