Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Friday, 24 July 2009 15:31 UK

Plane evacuated after emergency

Plane evacuation at Gatwick
Passengers disembark after the Flybe plane made an emergency landing

A runway at Gatwick had to be closed after an aircraft that had diverted to the West Sussex airport was forced to make an emergency landing.

The 46 passengers on board the Flybe flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cardiff were safely evacuated from the plane, airport operator BAA said.

The aircraft was later cleared from the runway, which has now reopened.

A spokesperson for Flybe said the landing of the BE1432 flight followed a suspected technical fault.

The airline said the diverted aircraft landed at 1226 BST local time, with emergency vehicles deployed by the airport as a precautionary measure.

We are advising those due to take flights today to turn up as normal
Airport spokesman

Passenger Shayne Krige, a 36-year-old lawyer who lives in Paris, said smoke gathered in the roof of the cabin 20 minutes before the forced landing.

"It started collecting along the roof and seemed to be getting thicker," he said.

"The steward put on a mask and started walking down the aisle to find out where there might be a fire.

"One person started to panic but everyone else was really calm."

He said he and his wife, Heike Brunner, 36, held hands.

"We looked at each other and said everything is going to be OK.

"It was a little bit hair-raising, everything goes through your mind, you are on high alert."

Mr Krige said passengers were not asked to take the brace position for the landing but there was a great sense of relief when the plane touched down safely.

Four crew

All the passengers disembarked without incident following emergency procedures and were taken to a reception area for welfare assistance.

Flybe said they would all be re-accommodated at the earliest possible opportunity.

Four crew members were also on board.

The runway was shut from about 1125 BST until just before 1300 BST.

The airport said 11 flights due to land at Gatwick were diverted to other airports, while another 15 were held in waiting-to-land "stacking" positions.

Three other flights were held on the ground.

A spokesman said: "We are advising those due to take flights today to turn up as normal.

"This is a busy day but it's not our most busy of the summer. We're hoping that delays will be kept to a minimum."

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