Holidaymakers suffered a nightmare flight after their plane’s engine shut down - and they made an emergency landing at a military base guarded by soldiers with machine guns.
The ordeal for Gary Barton, 57, his wife Caroline, 48, and their daughter, began after three hours into their flight - when the pilot announced he was shutting down an engine and there would be an emergency landing.
Caroline, a pastoral support worker at a high school, from Leigh told the Manchester Evening News: “We could see on our screens that our altitude was dropping about 500ft every minute. It looked like we were just dropping into the Atlantic.”
But four hours later, the pilot arrived at his destination - a military base in the Azores. Caroline added: “We could see all the fire engines on the ground. Because it was dark it seemed so scary, all those flashing lights, it made everything look worse. They said it was just a precaution but we were very very worried. It was extremely tense on that plane. Our daughter was crying, shaking - she was saying ‘what if we don’t make it?’.
The pilot had diverted the flight to Lajes in The Azores - a military airbase which also runs scheduled flights,
Eventually, in response to uproar from the passengers - including young children - the base commander gave permission for them to use a room on the base to wait. But they were herded into a site with few chairs to sit on the floor - surrounded by armed guards at every exit.
When their rescue plane - a Boeing 767-300 - arrived, they were loaded on before waiting another hour for take-off, arriving back in Manchester at 5pm - with an 11 hour 23 minute delay.
A Thomson Airways spokeswoman said: “Due to overcrowding at the airport, passengers remained on board with refreshments provided. They were given further refreshments in the terminal before boarding a replacement aircraft which took them back to Manchester airport, arriving just after 5pm.
She said each party would be given £100 to cover expenses incurred as a result of the delayed arrival.