No one was injured and the pilot has become a national hero in Poland, where the aircraft came down.
The drama was captured in pictures and on video.
Passengers on the Boeing 767 plane feared for their lives when the landing equipment failed to function on a flight from the US to Warsaw in Poland.
Despite fires breaking out in the plane’s fuselage, the pilot managed to make a safe landing, bring the craft down on its belly.
Polish airline LOT said the plane suffered “a central hydraulic system failure,” which meant the landing gear, or undercarriage, failed.
The problem was discovered half an hour after leaving Newark and when the plane reached Warsaw the pilot kept it circling over the airport for an hour trying to use up fuel to lessen the chance of an explosion.
Passengers were warned there was a problem.
“The pilot addressed us a number of times and said we should follow instructions. Later, a flight attendant said there might be a fire, and at that point people began to get nervous and uncertain,” said one traveller.
“I started to cry, and the men around me were also crying,” another passenger reported. “I thought that was the end of me.”
The plane finally attempted a landing after the runway had been covered in flame retardant foam by the fire brigade. Although small fires broke out, firefighters were able to immediately extinguish them.
Despite coming down on its belly, passengers reported that the landing was smooth and applause broke out.