A DHL Air Boeing 757-200F was forced to return to Leipzig Airport on Saturday when its main cargo door opened in-flight, shortly after take-off.
The aircraft, registration G-DHKZ, was performing a domestic cargo flight from Leipzig to Frankfurt, and had climbed to about 5,700 feet when the main cargo door opened completely, according to crew members.
The aircrew stopped climbing and immediately turned back towards Leipzig Airport.
Several parts then reportedly separated from the airframe and fell over the ground, near the Schkopau coal power plant about 10 kilometres west of Leipzig Airport.
The aircraft turned back to its departure airport and touched back down at Leipzig around 15 minutes after its initial take-off.
The aircraft stopped about 1,500 metres down the runway, where it remained for a further 40 minutes, before it was moved to the tarmac.
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It is not yet clear what caused the door to open in-flight, and whether the issue was mechanical or human error.
There were no injuries or casualties reported, though the aircraft sustained substantial damage.
The German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) classified the incident as “serious” and has begun an investigation.
The BFU also confirmed that no freight was ejected from the aircraft during the incident.