Belfast plane drama passenger feared he would die - 'eerie silence' in cabin on final descent without nose gear
A Co Antrim passenger on board the Flybe plane that had to make an emergency landing in Belfast without its front wheel said he feared he would never see his family again.
Raymond Hill, from Ballyclare, was among the 52 passengers travelling on flight BE331 to Inverness when it was forced to carry out an emergency landing on Friday afternoon.
The dad-of-two described the "eerie silence" as cabin crew explained the drills to prepare passengers for the landing after it experienced problems with the nose gear shortly after taking off.
Mr Hill, who is the CEO of City Auction Group, said he feared he would not make it off the plane alive and never see his wife Julie and two children, Oliver (15) and Christian (10), again.
The auctioneer was travelling with 24 friends, including his brother David, to the Dorset Sheep Society AGM in Inverness. Passengers were told there was a problem with the front landing gear minutes after taking off from George Best City Airport.
After attempting unsuccessfully to fix the issue, the pilot burned off the plane's fuel for around two hours. Mr Hill told the Daily Mail it was the "longest two hours" of his life. "We were just holding hands and some people were crying. It was very eerie - no one asked any questions," he explained.
"There was a baby on board and an old lady who was in a bad way and very confused, but otherwise everyone was calm."
In preparation for the emergency landing, crew told passengers to remove glasses and false teeth. "I was sitting at the back of the plane and as we prepared to land it was very, very scary," he added.
Mr Hill paid tribute to the pilot for a "magnificent landing".
"It was so smooth that I didn't even know we had landed," he said.
"The crew were brilliant, absolutely great, and when everyone left the plane there was no pushing and shoving, everyone remained very calm.
"Now I feel I've been so lucky and I can get up in an aeroplane again.
"Lightning doesn't strike twice."
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch sent a team to Belfast to investigate the incident.
The flight which took off at 11.07am on Friday landed at Belfast International Airport just before 2pm.