Passengers on a Boeing 737 aircraft have praised the fast reactions of a pilot this evening after their jet bound for London Southend Airport almost landed three miles short in the town of Hockley ‘by accident’ when he thought that a large Christmas lights display was the beginning of the runway.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing the undercarriage of Mufthansa flight MU531 from Frankfurt to London Southend passing around 40 metres above their homes, before hearing a ‘massive thrust’ in the engines and seeing the aircraft suddenly pulling up.

One passenger, who didn’t want to be named, said that she first thought that something wasn’t quite right when she spotted The Bull pub’s ‘Two Mains For £10’ sign outside her window.

She added: ‘I saw a house with a massive selection of Christmas lights up, and all of sudden the aircraft started to lift into the air at a 60 degree angle.’

‘Everyone started panicking and I honestly thought that my number was up when I spotted a vision of Jesus Christ out of the window, but it turns out that the guy has a nativity scene as part of the display.’

The display on the junction of Folly Lane and Main Road in Hockley has been set up to raise money for a charity called Southend Toy Library, an organisation that provides respite care days for disabled local children, and more information is here. 

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said: ‘We can confirm that a near miss occurred in the town of Hockley at around 5.40pm on Wednesday 6th December after a Mufthansa pilot mistook an illuminated inflatable snowman for the runway marker of London Southend Airport’s instrument landing system.’

‘However, on this occasion we are prepared to overlook the display organiser’s actions as it is for charity and not some sort of neighbourly manhood comparison contest.’