Sir Elton John was left "shaken" after his private jet suffered hydraulic failure.
The 74-year-old singer was on his way to New York on Monday morning when his personal aircraft got into difficulty at 10 000 feet, about an hour into the trip, with the pilot having to make a U-turn close to the coast of southern Ireland, but attempts to land the plane were aborted twice because of the strong winds.
The pilot radioed air traffic control to declare an emergency landing, with emergency services alerted and firefighters from six stations called to Farnborough Airport, Hants, ready for the plane.
Plumber Philip Thomson, who was working when the twin-jet Bombardier Global Express came into view, told The Sun newspaper: “The terrible weather and epic gusts made it almost impossible to land. Two attempts to touch down failed.
“The plane was being buffeted and couldn’t make it. The aircraft’s nose was far too vertical. The plane was descending and was halfway along the runway when it gave up trying to hit the tarmac. It soared back in the air.
“A crowd had gathered after word went around that Elton was in difficulty. And as the plane came around again for a second attempt to land, the storm was doing its worst.
“The airport’s windsock was horizontal and the aircraft was being rocked from side to side by the wind.
“The pilot made a valiant attempt to get down with the jet ‘crabbing’ into the storm. But it didn’t make it and had to head back upwards.
“It was only at the third attempt to land that the plane got down. The pilot made a flatter approach and the wind had dropped slightly. Everyone watching was mightily relieved.
“It was a horrible thing to see, and you wouldn’t have swapped places with Elton on that small plane for anything. I bet he said a few prayers of thanks...
"It was so serious that I counted at least six fire engines that attended, along with the airport’s own incident team. The police and ambulance services were there, too.”
Despite the terrifying ordeal, Elton caught a later flight to the US and still made it on stage for his 'Farewell Yellow Brick Road' show at Madison Square Garden.
A source said: “It was a white-knuckle ride and Elton was shaken. But he put aside any personal anguish to get back on a plane. For Elton, quite literally, the show must go on.”
Local firefighters confirmed they were asked to attend the scene.
A spokesperson for Hampshire Isle of Wight Fire Rescue Service said of the private jet drama: “Firefighters from Rushmoor, Hartley Wintney, Basingstoke, Fleet, Yateley and Surrey FRS were called at 11.16 on Monday morning to an incident at Farnborough Airport.
“No action was taken by HIWFRS with the incident dealt with by the airport fire service.”