updated 6/9/2011 8:46:01 AM ET 2011-06-09T12:46:01

A jetliner has made a safe emergency landing in New Zealand after passengers heard loud bangs and saw flames shooting from an engine.

The Air New Zealand Boeing 767 had just left for Perth, Australia, carrying more than 200 passengers, when it turned back to the Auckland International Airport on Thursday afternoon.

Passenger Denise Ferris told a local news website it was "really scary" and she and her mother prayed as the aircraft turned back to land. Another passenger, Judith Grieg, said the pilot and cabin crew had "shaky" voices.

Air New Zealand said the captain told passengers he was shutting down an engine and that it wouldn't be unusual for them to see flames. The company says a bird strike was possible.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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