No one was hurt when a Boeing 767 flying from Newark, New Jersey, with some 230 people on board, made an emergency landing at Warsaw's airport on Tuesday after trouble with landing gear.
All safety procedures worked perfectly fine and, thanks to this, nobody was injured, said Leszek Chorzewski, spokesman for the Polish national flag carrier LOT, operator of the plane.
Live television footage showed the Boeing craft landing on its belly, with a few sparks flying as it hit the runway covered with flame retardant foam.
There was no blaze but firefighters hosed the plane with water and foam seconds after all the passengers were evacuated.
I thought I would feel like we were hitting the ground violently, but then we felt (the plane) touching the ground and that was it, said one of the plane's passengers, Krzysztof Rozycki.
LOT said the hydraulic system responsible for operating the wing flaps and the landing gear failed, and a backup system worked only for the flaps -- forcing the emergency landing after the plane had circled for nearly an hour above Warsaw.
Other passengers spoke of fear and total silence during the landing. There were tears, there were tears, said Hubert Waz.
Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski said he would award state decorations to the crew of the plane after briefly talking on the phone to the pilot.
To all those involved, I say thank you with all my heart, Komorowski told a news conference.
Capitan Lukasz Wrona is a veteran LOT pilot in his 50s, with a passion for gliding which may have helped him to land the plane safely without wheels, local media reported.
The airport was due to remain closed for all other flights until at least Wednesday morning as LOT conferred with Boeing on how best to remove the craft from the runway, officials said.
Poland was shocked by an air catastrophe in April 2010, when a government plane carrying president Lech Kaczynski and 95 others, mostly senior state officials, crashed while trying to land in thick fog in western Russia, killing all on board.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Marcin Goclowski, Rob Strybel, writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Rosalind Russell)