SHANNON Airport was closed for almost six hours yesterday following a serious incident in which the nose wheel of a passenger plane apparently collapsed after landing.
None of the 21 passengers or four crew on board suffered any injuries.
The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) -- which is attached to the Department of Transport -- is carrying out an investigation into the incident.
Flight EI-3601, an Aer Lingus regional service from Manchester operated by Aer Arann, was scheduled to arrive in Shannon at 10.15am. The pilot aborted the first landing, telling controllers they wished to perform a "go-around" and try to land again. Winds at the time were reported to be gusting up to 35mph and controllers had advised the crew of possible turbulence in the area.
The flight landed on its second attempt at around 10.22am -- but almost immediately afterwards the plane's nose wheel appeared to collapse suddenly.
The turbo-prop plane is understood to have skidded along the runway for over 100 metres before it veered off the runway and came to a stop on the grass verge. Crash crews arrived at the plane within a minute of the alarm being raised.
Shannon, which has only one operational runway, was closed immediately and flights were diverted to Cork or Dublin for six hours.
Units of the local authority fire brigade from Shannon town and Ennis, along with a fleet of ambulances from Limerick and Ennis, were sent to the scene.
The passengers were evacuated without incident and taken to the terminal building where they were assessed by HSE paramedics, but none were found to have sustained any injuries.
On arrival at the scene, fire crews quickly sprayed the aircraft and the area around the plane with foam.
One man, who witnessed the incident, said: "I was sitting in my car reading the paper and saw the plane coming in. It looked like the front wheel just collapsed right after the plane touched down. The plane then slid on its nose for a few hundred metres, causing a lot of smoke."
Aer Arann said in a statement: "All passengers and crew safely disembarked the aircraft and no injuries have been reported."
The airline said it could not speculate as to the cause of the incident.
The aircraft was removed from the taxiway at around 4pm and, after a further inspection of the runway was carried out, the airport was reopened.
It is understood that some parts of the aircraft were recovered from the runway.
However, reports that a nose wheel was also found on the runway could not be verified.
The plane was taken to a secure hangar, where AAIU officials will continue to examine the aircraft today.