El Al plane in emergency landing at Heathrow

Passengers flying from London to Tel Aviv early this morning found their journey was shorter than usual when their El Al plane was forced back after just 20 minutes.

Those on board Flight 318 reported seeing fire and smoke under the wing after one of the plane's engines caught fire soon after the 1am take-off time. Passengers included a group of British teenagers travelling to Israel for summer tour with BBYO.

The plane was cruising at 26,000 feet when passengers and crew first smelt burning in the cabin.

The pilot of the 747, which had more than 400 passengers on board, was able to make a safe emergency landing at Heathrow.

"The plane was not in danger," Captain Ilan Margalit told Globes. "I could have continued to fly to Tel Aviv on three engines, but we're educated at El Al not to take any risk. Safety is paramount."

Last updated: 12:04pm, July 5 2012