MELBOURNE, Australia – An Emirates jetliner carrying more than 225 people slammed its tail into the runway as it took off from Australia, sending smoke into the cabin and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing, officials said Saturday.
No one was hurt, but passengers described being terrified after learning something was wrong soon after the Airbus A340 took off from the southern city of Melbourne about 10:30 p.m. Friday, bound for Dubai.
After the strike, which reportedly left debris strewn on the runway and knocked out some runway lights, the pilot flew over the sea, dumping fuel, before returning to the airport and landing without incident.
"We did land successfully, thankfully, and the plane was surrounded by paramedics and fire engines," passenger Catherine Edmunds told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "It was terrifying. I'd hate to go through it again."
The ABC said crew noticed smoke in the cabin during the roughly 45 minutes the plane was in the air.
The Dubai-based airline said in a statement that a safety inspection team was being rushed to Melbourne to investigate the incident, and that it regretted any inconvenience caused to passengers.
Australian aviation authorities were also investigating.
"We will be looking at the flight data records, getting data off that, interviewing the crew, interviewing the company representatives, inspecting the runway and aircraft," Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman Ian Brokenshire said.
He said such incidents where known in the industry as "tail hits" and were caused by a number of factors such as the angle of takeoff, weather conditions and loading issues.
"It is a hazard, particularly on the longer aircraft," he said.
The passengers were put on other flights to Dubai.