emergency landing, el al
The emergency landing of El Al flight 027 at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 23, 2011. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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El Al flight 027 landed safely at Ben Gurion International Airport in an emergency landing on Monday morning, following the discovery of a technical fault in the left wheel of the airplane. The flight, which was headed for Newark, returned to Ben Gurion and landed safely at 5:30am.

A technical fault was found in the left wheel of the plane after its 1:50am take-off, following which the flight crew decided to return to Israel. A state of emergency was declared and 70 ambulances, 20 fire trucks and numerous police vehicles arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport ahead of the emergency landing.

On board the Boeing 777 were 276 passengers.Emergency services chief Eli Bin said, "At 2:20 A.M. we received a message about preparations for an emergency landing of an El Al plane. We don't have experience with this, so we sent dozens of ambulances and many paramedics and doctors in the event of a worse case scenario of 270 injured passengers."

Itzik Zinger, 36, a passenger on the plane, said, "As we waited to take off, there was a delay of one hour and they told us that there was some kind of technical problem that needs to be taken care of before takeoff. A few minutes after takeoff, they told us that there was a problem with one of the wheels, and that we would be returning to Tel Aviv.

"The pilot announced that we were waiting for the light of day to land safely," Zinger said. "For several hours we flew in circles over the water. The pilot released large quantities of fuel."

Zinger said that "People were very nervous. 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. Everyone was very nervous."

"When we were told that we would be landing, we could already see all kinds of rescue vehicles at the airport. The oxygen masks did not drop, but we were told to sit with our heads between our legs and prepare for an emergency landing," Zinger said.

"At the end of it all, when we landed, 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."