Passengers of a Flybe Dash 8 aircraft saw a wheel fall off just seconds after it took off from Exeter airport in UK.
The wheel plummeted to the ground just moments into the journey from Exeter to Newcastle.
The air traffic control alerted the pilot to what had occurred rather than those sitting in the window seats who saw it happen.
On taking the call the pilot immediately dispatched a senior air stewardess to investigate and it was at this point that the passengers told her what they had seen, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch report found.
The pilots of the Dash 8 aircraft then decided to seat the passengers more evenly around the plane and head back to Exeter using the “alternate landing gear extension” procedure.
The 58-year-old captain issued a Mayday to air traffic controllers and as the plane came into the airport the 39 passengers were told to adopt the brace position.
Before they headed back the co-pilot contacted the airline’s chief pilot by radio and it was agreed that the crew would use a left-wingdown technique ensuring the left mainwheels touched down on the runway first, with the remaining right mainwheel then being lowered onto the runway as gently as possible.
As it touched down, it veered to the left and the captain had to apply “significant amounts of right rudder” to hold the aircraft steady. He then used the emergency brake to bring the aircraft to a halt.
The passengers were then able to disembark through the front left door.
The AAIB report said the reason why the wheel came off was because its outer bearing had seized and “consequential damage had allowed the wheel to detach”.
The report added that the captain had inspected the right main landing gear before the flight and had not noticed any abnormalities and “given the nature of the bearing failure, it is unlikely that any (abnormalities) would have been visible”.
The report stated: “Having an engineer on board, licensed on the aircraft type, was beneficial and his knowledge was used to good advantage.”
The AAIB said several safety actions had been initiated following the incident.
In 2009, a Cardiff-bound Dash 8 aircraft, also operated by Flybe, was forced to make an emergency landing at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.
The aircraft, which was flying in from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, with 46 passengers on board, had to put down early following a suspected smoke problem.