An Air Canada plane with 128 passengers on board is flying in circles near Madrid, trying to burn off fuel as it prepares for an emergency landing following problems with one of its two engines and a ruptured tyre during take-off.
Spain’s Defence Ministry said that an F18 fighter jet had been dispatched from a military airport near the Spanish capital to evaluate the damage done to the landing gear of Toronto-bound Flight AC837.
The Boeing 767 aircraft had departed from the Adolfo Suarez-Barajas international airport earlier in the day and was scheduled to land in Toronto at 3.40pm local time.
In a statement, the airline said the plane “experienced an engine issue shortly after take-off” as well as a ruptured tyre – one of 10 on the Boeing 767-300.
It added that the aircraft “is designed to operate on one engine and our pilots are fully trained for this eventuality”.
“Nonetheless, an emergency was declared in order to obtain landing priority,” Air Canada said.
A spokeswoman with Spain’s airport operator AENA said the airline had requested a slot for an emergency landing some 30 minutes after take-off.
A spokesman for Enaire, Spain’s air navigation authority, said the plane’s landing gear did not fold up properly on taking off and that a piece of it may have damaged part of one of the engines.
He said the pilot estimates that the plane should be able to attempt the emergency landing at around 7.15pm local time (1815 GMT).
Emergency service vehicles including fire engines and ambulances have been deployed at the Spanish capital’s airport.
Spain’s El Mundo newspaper’s website published audio it said featured the plane’s pilot explaining to the passengers the need to return to Madrid because a wheel had been damaged during take-off.
“Because we are a bit too heavy, we have to get rid of fuel before being able to land,” the voice can be heard saying in Spanish.
Madrid residents posted videos online showing a plane flying unusually low over the Spanish capital’s centre and suburbs.
It was the second incident of the day at Madrid’s international airport, the busiest in the country.
Earlier on Monday, the airport closed for more than an hour due to the reported sighting of drones in the vicinity.