Sir Elton John was caught in a horrific mid-air drama when his private jet broke hydraulics at 10,000 feet.
The plane aborted landings twice during the day when winds reached 80 miles per hour. The fire brigades raced to Farnborough Airport, Hants.
The witness said: “The plane collided and was unable to land. It was terrible to see.”
The 74-year-old superstar was blown away by the ordeal, but a few hours later she caught another flight to the US to perform last night.
His gripping drama began shortly after the £66 million plane left the airport for New York at 10:20 am.
About an hour into the flight, the aircraft suffered a hydraulic failure at 10,000 feet and the pilot had to turn around as it approached the coast of southern Ireland.
He returned to Farnborough and contacted air traffic control to call for an emergency landing.
Ambulances and police were alerted at 11:19 am. Firefighters from six stations arrived at the scene, and the runway was cleared.
Plumber Philip Thomson was working when the I’m Still Standing star’s jet, emblazoned with a huge E, loomed into view on the day that the fierce winds of Storm Franklin hit the country.
Silence reigned at the airport when it became known that the two-jet Bombardier Global Express was in trouble.
Mr Thomson said of Monday’s drama: “Awful weather and incredible gusts of wind made landing almost impossible. Two attempts to land were unsuccessful.
“The plane collided and could not take off. The nose of the plane was too vertical. The aircraft was descending and was halfway to the runway when it abandoned its attempt to crash into the runway. He flew up into the air again.
“The crowd gathered after it became known that Elton was in trouble. And as the plane turned around again for a second attempt to land, the storm intensified.
“The airport windsock was horizontal and the plane was rocking the wind from side to side.
“The pilot made a valiant attempt to descend when the plane ‘crashed’ into a storm. But this did not happen, and he had to return upstairs.
“It was only on the third attempt to land that the plane landed. The pilot took a gentler approach and the wind dropped a little. All who watched were greatly relieved.”
Father-of-two Mr Thomson of Bracknell, Burks, added: “It was a terrible sight and you would never have swapped places with Elton on that little plane. I bet he said a few prayers of thanks.
Rocket Man Sir Elton was on his way to New York City to perform at Madison Square Garden as part of his global Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.
The star was so determined not to upset the fans that he put the harrowing ordeal behind him and boarded a later flight to the US just in time for yesterday’s concert.
“ELTON WAS SHOCKED”
A source said: “It was a terrible trip and Elton was blown away. But he put aside any personal suffering to get back on the plane. For Elton, literally, the show must go on.”
Nine days earlier, Sir Elton, a father of two, was enjoying a walk in Gstaad, Switzerland.
He and his husband David Furnish, 59, ate lunch and toured the shops at the Alpine resort.
The couple flew from Farnborough to the Swiss capital of Bern on the same plane.
Mr Thomson, who performed maintenance at the airport on Monday before watching the drama unfold, added: “I knew Sir Elton must have been busy working in New York trying to fly across the Atlantic in a private jet to storm.
“But he didn’t expect the plane to have technical problems. It was so serious that I counted at least six fire trucks arriving along with the airport’s own emergency response team. The police and the ambulance were also there.”
In 2019, a similar German government-owned Bombardier Global 5000 aircraft had trouble landing in Berlin due to a malfunction shortly after takeoff.
Sir Elton is regularly seen getting on and off his plane after a world tour.
The music star landed in Auckland and Adelaide as part of his world tour before the Covid pandemic hit.
And he dropped the line after landing in Sydney on a plane in 2019. He threw a £3,500 Gucci bag out the door before stomping to an Audi Q7 parked on the runway.
Sir Elton’s last world tour was announced in 2018 and was due to end in December 2020. But due to Covid, dozens of concerts had to be postponed.
Last September, the star underwent hip surgery after an unfortunate fall while on vacation caused him “great pain and discomfort.”
He said at the time, “I was advised to have surgery as soon as possible to get me back in full physical shape.”
He also announced that he was postponing the UK and European legs of the tour to 2023. Sir Elton returned to the US last month and was seen cautiously exiting his plane in Atlanta.
A positive Covid test forced him to cancel his Dallas concerts on January 25 and 26. But earlier this month, he gave a concert in Chicago.
His return to the road – combined with the rescheduling of the Oscars from February to March 27 – means he will miss the Hollywood party this year.
Sir Elton has hosted the annual Academy Awards Party for the past 30 years to raise money for his AIDS Foundation. He will be absent this year, although husband David is expected to take over as host.
Last night, the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue reported on the private jet drama: “Firefighters from Rushmoor, Hartley Wintney, Basingstoke, Fleet, Yateley and Surrey FRS were called at 11:16 a.m. Monday morning in connection with an incident at Farnborough Airport.
“HIWFRS took no action in relation to the incident handled by the airport fire department.”
Farnborough Airport declined to comment on the emergency. Sir Elton’s representatives did not comment.
Luxurious way to fly
Elton John’s Bombardier BD-700 Global Express is a twin-engine jet popular with multimillionaires.
It can carry up to 19 passengers and up to three crew members.
Elegant and spacious interiors include leather sofas and beds, flat-screen TVs and state-of-the-art sound systems.
There are two toilets and a shower, and the cabin has 27 windows and a “100 percent fresh air system”.
The star of the American television talk show Oprah Winfrey is among the owners of the first issue.
The aircraft is manufactured by the Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace and is powered by two BMW Rolls-Royce turbofan engines.
Its top speed is 590 mph and its range is 7,200 miles, which means it doesn’t need to refuel more than once per flight. Direct routes include London to New York.