Qantas flight makes emergency landing

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Qantas domestic flight in Australia turned back and made a precautionary landing after a cockpit warning that a landing gear door had failed to close, the airline said Tuesday.

Monday's incident posed no danger to anyone on board, the airline said, but it drew intense media attention because it came just three days after a near-disaster aboard an international flight that resulted in an emergency landing in the Philippines.

Passengers aboard the Qantas Airways flight from the southern cities of Adelaide to Melbourne described panic aboard the plane after the pilot informed them that they would be turning around. Airline spokeswoman Sophia Connolly denied this and said everyone aboard was calm.

"Qantas flight 692 operating between Adelaide and Melbourne performed a routine 'air turn-back' shortly after takeoff, due to an indication of one of the landing gear doors failing to retract," Connolly said, reading a prepared statement.

"The aircraft landed without incident and all passengers were accommodated on other flights. There was no safety risk at any time."

Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said the aircraft's wheels came up after takeoff but the undercarriage door didn't retract. The plane could have continued to fly safely despite the malfunction, though it likely would have experienced a bit of turbulence and would have been harder for the pilot to fly because of aerodynamics problems, he said.

"In the scheme of things, this is pretty minor," Gibson said Tuesday. "It's unfortunate that things like this happen, but you've got to be realistic — planes are machines. From time to time, things go wrong."

Passenger Rocco Russo told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio that he heard a rattling noise about 10 minutes after the plane took off.

Another passenger, Gunter Kubler of South Africa, told The Daily Telegraph he was too scared to fly to Melbourne after the incident.

"It was absolute chaos on the plane and then they had to turn it around and bring it back to Adelaide," he said. "They had to bring in another plane to fly people back, but I don't trust them so I will take a bus or a train to Melbourne."

Gibson said Qantas gave a verbal report on the incident to the aviation authority on Tuesday morning, and would submit a written report within a couple of days.

On Friday a Qantas jumbo jet on its way from London to Melbourne made an emergency landing in the Philippines with a hole the size a small car in its fuselage. Investigators say the hold may have been caused by an exploding oxygen cylinder.