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Passenger plane loses propeller, lands safely in Sydney

A passenger plane made an emergency landing in Australia after one of its propellers fell off in mid-air. The crew and people on board were "lucky in the extreme" to avoid disaster, experts say.

The right propeller detached at the altitude of around 6,000 feet (over 1,800 meters) while the plane was approaching Sydney airport on Friday. However, the pilots managed to balance the aircraft and land safely. None of the passengers and crew members were injured.

"Our propeller has just sheared off but normal controls. Still able to fly," one of the two pilots said in a radio call broadcast by Australian media.

The Saab 340 airliner carried 16 passengers and three crew members from Albury, which is some 500 kilometers (310 miles) southwest of Sydney.

Such incidents are "very, very unusual," according to a spokesman for the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

"Not just the propeller, but the shaft that connects it into the engine have all come off and the assembly has fallen away to the ground," said spokesman Peter Gibson.

The dislodged parts could have cut into the fuselage and the tail of the plane, but the rest of the aircraft remained relatively unscathed.

The crew came "within a whisker of a catastrophic event," said Paul Cousin from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.

"When that propeller let go, they were lucky in the extreme that it sent itself over the top of the wing without doing much damage," he added.

Australia's Regional Express Airline said it was looking into the incident, while also pointing out that the crew followed normal landing procedures and that the plane arrived in Sydney "normally and on time."

Regional Express, also known as Rex, operates many flights to Australia's smaller cities and towns.

dj/jm (AP, dpa)