HUNDREDS of passengers had their planes diverted after a Spitfire crash-landed at East Midlands Airport.
The runway was closed for nearly three hours after the Rolls Royce-owned Spitfire's undercarriage collapsed as it came into land.
Arriving planes were diverted to Birmingham airport while the runway was out of service and departing planes were delayed.
One witness to the accident was retired farmer Edward Coxon, who was at the airport plane spotting.
The 65-year-old from Hartshorne, near Swadlincote, said: "I was watching the planes landing at the airport and had noticed the Spitfire in the air.
"I then looked through my binoculars and saw it stranded in the middle of the runway and surrounded by blue lights.
"I was looking forward to watching the planes coming in, but they shut the runway as soon as the plane was down."
The Spitfire landed at 3.20pm but its main landing gear collapsed leaving it stranded on the tarmac.
The pilot was uninjured and the runway was re-opened at 6pm.
Former journalist Brian Patrick, of Kegworth, heard the plane flying overhead prior to the landing.
He said: "As the aircraft landed the shock was such that it would have left some debris on the runway which would need to be cleared before it could be opened again for safety reasons.
"My understanding is that the plane was on a test run for future flights that would have taken place later this year.
"It was on a loop and was coming into land when the problem happened."
The plane has a wingspan of 36ft 10ins, is 32ft 8ins long and weighs 8,600lbs. Its Rolls-Royce Griffon engines have 1,600 horse power.
Bought by the iconic Derby firm in 1996, it appears at air displays and charity events as well as corporate functions.
An airport spokesperson said: "Following a Spitfire aircraft sustaining a collapsed undercarriage on landing the airport worked hard to remove the aircraft from the runway.
"During this time, flights were temporarily suspended with seven aircraft diverted to Birmingham Airport.
"The aircraft was towed from the runway and after a final runway inspection, flights resumed at 6pm."
Passengers travelling to Belfast were the last to leave the airport in a coach for Birmingham before it reopened.
David Spratt and wife Helen had flown over from Belfast to drop their daughter off at the University of Nottingham.
Mr Spratt said: "We arrived at the airport early, around 3pm, to have something to eat.
"We were in the departures lounge and had been through all the security when we heard the announcement. Our journey was delayed but I am just thankful that nobody was hurt in the crash."
A spokesman for the Air Accident Investigation Bureau said it would be looking into the incident.
He added: "We are aware of the incident and will be investigating it via correspondence. There will be a short report compiled in due course."
The Second World War Spitfire belongs to Rolls Royce, which has a base at East Midlands Airport.
A spokesman for Rolls Royce said he was aware of the incident and the company will assist with enquiries.
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