Northern Ireland

Belfast to US plane in emergency landing at Shannon

Flight UA76 being towed at Shannon Airport
Image caption The plane was towed to safety once it landed at Shannon Airport

A United Airlines flight from Belfast to Newark has made an emergency landing at Shannon Airport.

The Boeing 757-224 landed safely at the County Clare airport at 14:28 BST.

Flight UA76 left Belfast International Airport at 11:19 BST and was due to arrive in New Jersey's Newark Airport at 13:45 local time.

United Airlines said it was a "mechanical issue". In February, a plane on the same route had to make an emergency landing in Manchester.

The reason given for that diversion was also a "mechanical issue". United Airlines said it was not the same plane that was re-directed to Shannon.

There were 121 passengers and nine crew members on board Monday's flight to Newark and they are spending the night in County Clare.

'Belfast humour'

Shortly after take-off, the plane developed a mechanical issue believed to have been with the landing gear.

An emergency was declared and the plane was diverted to Shannon Airport, where it circled for about two hours to burn off fuel before it was light enough to make a low approach for inspection.

It then gained altitude for a go-around before landing.

Image copyright Flightradar24
Image caption The plane had to burn off fuel before making a low pass for inspection

Belfast journalist Lesley-Anne McKeown was on the flight with her husband Brendan. They were heading to New York for three nights to celebrate his 40th birthday.

The Press Association reporter, who is 29 weeks pregnant, said everything was normal with the take-off until the wheels came up and there was a "really loud grinding noise".

"That persisted for a while and then one of the senior flight officers came over the tannoy and said there was a mechanical problem.

"He said there was 'nothing to worry about... at this point'. When he said 'at this point' I got worried."

She said the atmosphere was tense, as cabin crew spoke to various people on board about emergency procedures.

"People were just worried," she said. "They were trying to keep their spirits up but you could see people were scared. This lasted for two hours."

Image caption Emergency vehicles were on stand-by when the plane landed

She said she was most frightened when the plane did the fly-past to check if the front wheels were up or down.

"They confirmed the wheels were down. There was a palpable sense of relief but they still didn't know whether they were in the lock position - whether they could take the impact of the landing," she said.

There were tears and cheers when the plane touched down, she added, and lighter moments during the mid-air drama.

"When everyone was trying to keep their spirits up the woman in front of us turned to the woman beside her and said 'at least it's not raining'," she said.

"Typical Belfast humour."

United Airlines apologised for the inconvenience caused.

"We are providing our customers with meals and overnight hotel accommodation, and are making arrangements for them to continue their journeys tomorrow," the company said.