Jet alert brings holiday chaos

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Thousands of bank-holiday travellers faced chaos at Gatwick yesterday when a jet carrying 183 British tourists was forced to make an emergency landing.

The Airtours Boeing 757 was 50 minutes into its flight to Palma, Majorca, when a warning light flashed on the flight deck. The pilot alerted the passengers and eight crew he was returning to Gatwick and requested an emergency landing.

Flights were suspended for nearly one hour while fire, ambulance and police crews prepared for an emergency.

A Gatwick airport spokeswoman said the plane landed on grass beside the main runway and all passengers evacuated on the aircraft's inflatable chutes.

"The aircraft landed safely and none of the passengers or crew were injured," she said.

The spokeswoman said the airport was starting to get back to normal after the incident at 7.15am. She said the emergency had struck at "possibly the busiest weekend of the year".

"We are trying to get everybody away on their holidays but obviously there have been a great number of delays."

A spokesman for Airtours said the aircraft's cockpit warning light indicated that there was a potential problem with the aircraft's hydraulics, which control the wheels and the steering.

Meanwhile, a woman was airlifted to hospital yesterday after being seriously injured when a spiked barrier was blown into the side of a Range Rover by a gust of wind.

The woman was with her husband on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, visiting tank ranges open to the public over the Bank Holiday weekend. The husband was negotiating the barrier when it was blown shut. A spike penetrated the vehicle's side, injuring his wife in the buttocks and leg.

Firecrew cut her free and she was flown to Salisbury District Hospital where her injuries were described as "serious, but not life-threatening".