PASSENGERS were left in shock after a flight bound for the North-East was forced to make an emergency landing when it lost a wheel on takeoff.

Emergency crews sprang into action at Exeter Airport yesterday when the captain of a Flybe flight reported problems with the Q400 aircraft, shortly after take-off.

The turbo-prop aircraft, heading for Newcastle with 43 people on board, landed at Exeter safely after circling for 90 minutes to use up fuel.

All passengers left the aircraft on its retractable steps and were put on the next available flight. Passenger Martin Brown said he felt the undercarriage rock during take-off. He said: “There were just sparks coming off the central part of the wheel where it spins around.

“As we were taking off, the wheel started to move up in the undercarriage.

“I do not know whether the doors of the undercarriage mistimed, or whatever, but one of the wheels hit the door and the tyre went flying off the wheel. And because, I guess, all of the mechanism crashed together, there was a large piece of metal sticking out of the side of the undercarriage.”

A spokesman for Flybe said: “The Q400 aircraft was operating a flight from Exeter to Newcastle with 39 passengers and four crew on board when, on retraction, one of the wheels detached itself on to the runway. The aircraft landed safely.”

A spokesman for Exeter Airport said: “The Flybe flight left from here at 12.25pm and returned oneand- a-half hours later. The captain decided it was serious enough to turn back.

“The airport went into full emergency stations with three appliances on standby to meet the aircraft. After the aircraft landed, they escorted it to a safe area on the runway where passengers got out.

“These things are routine, but dramatic on the day.

Everyone was pleased with the way the emergency response was handled.”

The incident will be investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.