Passengers were left terrified when their plane was forced to make an emergency landing after flying into a flock of birds.

The easyJet Airbus 319 left Newcastle Airport for Bristol at around 8pm on Thursday when the birdstrike occurred.

There were 148 passengers and six crew on board, and the plane quickly made a U-turn back for Newcastle.

Bosses at easyJet say the emergency landing was a precautionary measure.

But back on the ground, fire engines from were scrambled to the runway.

The aircraft landed safely, but passengers and airport visitors took to the social networking site Twitter to tell of their shock.

Boris Watch tweeted: "Easyjet made it from Newcastle to, er, Consett before turning round. Must have gone wrong at or very shortly after takeoff."

Elliot Theis tweeted: "First time I've ever seen that."

Chris Featherby wrote: "EZY569 Turned back to Newcastle."

Gareth Johnson tweeted: "Easyjet flight EZY569, Newcastle to Bristol, has just returned to @NCLairport minutes after taking off. Emergency squark sent out."

Passengers wanting to get to Bristol were left stranded as engineers worked to prepare the plane for take off again.

The emergency landing had a knock-on effect as passengers expecting to get the easyJet plane back to Newcastle were delayed by four hours.

Passenger Mike Jempson tweeted: "Stranded at #BristolAirport by #easyjet until 1am. #Newcastle never seemed so far away."

A spokesman for easyJet said: "EasyJet can confirm that flight EZY569 flying from Newcastle to Bristol returned to Newcastle Airport on October 4, 2012, due to a birdstrike shortly after take off.

"The captain took the decision purely as a precautionary measure.

"The safety and welfare of our crew and passengers is easyJet's top priority.

"EasyJet operates its fleet of aircraft in strict compliance with all manufacturers' and safety authorities' recommendations and regulations.

"The Airbus A319 was carrying 148 passengers and six crew.

"The airline would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologises for any inconvenience caused."

A spokesman for Tyne and Wear Fire Service said: "We were called out at around 8.05pm on Thursday, October3 as procedure to Newcastle Airport.

"But we were not needed and stood down."