Budleigh and Exmouth girls in flight drama

A TRIO of young sportswomen endured a traumatic start to their travels ahead of competing in a tennis competition – with the wheels to their plane falling off.

Sisters Liberty and Isabella Brown, of Boucher Way, Budleigh Salterton, joined by Sarah Collinge, of Birchwood Road, Exmouth, were travelling on a Flybe Bombardier Q 400 last week when a wheel underneath the wing broke during retraction.

The tennis players were about to travel from Exeter to Newcastle to represent the Devon Under 18 girls team in the county cup when the dramatic chain of events unfolded.

They were told by the captain about the problem and they faced an emergency landing back at Exeter.

The girls were terrified as the plane circled around offloading fuel and the cabin was prepared for landing.

Liberty said: “It was scary as we could see there was clearly a missing wheel. The cabin crew went through the emergency procedures and showed us how to brace for landing.

“Lots of people were crying, even the stewardess was crying by the time we landed.”

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After a couple of hours recovering in Exeter Airport, the team set off once more on a later flight to Newcastle.

An investigation has been launched following the incident which happened last Thursday, March 3.

Thirty nine passengers and four crew onboard all escaped serious injury.

Once the pilot raised the alarm, a police helicopter was deployed and roads around the airport were closed. Traffic was diverted amid fears the plane could crash.

The girls’ trip had a happy ending as they finished second in the tennis tournament.

A spokesperson for Flybe said one of the wheels detached itself and the incident during takeoff necessitated the airport putting emergency vehicles on standby.

“The aircraft landed safely without further incident. All passengers left the plane as normal by means of the aircraft steps,” the spokesperson added.

“The safety of its passengers and crew is Flybe’s number one priority: Flybe operates the world’s largest fleet of Q400 with 58 aircraft with an average age of 4.1 years that safely operate over 100,000 flights a year.”