The tail of an Emirates jetliner carrying more than 225 people slammed into the runway as it took off from Melbourne, Australia, last night, sending smoke into the cabin and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing. No one was hurt, but passengers described being terrified after learning something was wrong soon after the Airbus A340 bound for Dubai took off.
After the strike, which reportedly left debris strewn on the runway and knocked out some runway lights, the pilot flew over the sea, dumping fuel for 45 minutes before returning to the airport and landing without incident. "It was terrifying," one passenger said. "I'd hate to go through it again." A transportation safety official said such incidents, called "tail hits," are caused by a number of factors, including the angle of takeoff, weather conditions, and loading.