El Al: Jet makes emergency landing, passengers OK

El Al Israel Airlines said Monday that a jetliner with landing gear trouble was forced to make an emergency landing at the airport near Tel Aviv. No one was in danger during the flight, and no one was injured, the airline said.

The Israeli flagship carrier's chief pilot, Amos Mohar, said the Boeing 777 took off at 1:30 a.m. Monday and was en route to Newark, New Jersey, when the crew discovered a problem in the landing gear that connects the wheels with the body of the plane.

The jet turned back and circled above the Mediterranean throughout the night, waiting for daylight and dumping its fuel into the sea in preparation for the landing.

Mohar said the jet landed at dawn at Ben-Gurion International Airport. In case problems had developed, dozens of medical crews were standing by, hospitals were put on alert and Israeli warplanes were scrambled to escort the aircraft.

"At no point was there any danger to the passengers or to the plane," Mohar said in a statement.

Still, passengers described a scary scene on board.

"People were very nervous," Itzik Zinger, 36, told the Haaretz daily. "The El Al crew gave out food and tried to calm us down, but no one would eat, and it was very difficult to calm people down."

He said passengers could see rescue vehicles on the ground ahead of the landing, and they were told to sit with their heads between their legs for an emergency landing.

"Everyone was happy and was grateful that it ended as it did, but we went through several hours of fear, it was a difficult time," he said.

El Al Airlines said its plane was being inspected at Ben-Gurion.

The passengers were transferred to another flight that left later Monday.