'Bang and flash' engine trouble hits Emirates A380

An engine problem has forced an Emirates A380 superjumbo to turn back to Sydney, the airline said Monday, with passengers hearing a loud bang and seeing a flash of orange.

The pilot of the Dubai-bound Airbus plane carrying 380 passengers made the decision to turn back shortly after take-off on Sunday night.

"Emirates flight EK413 from Sydney to Dubai on November 11 turned back shortly after take-off due to an engine fault," the carrier said in a statement.

"Emirates apologises for any inconvenience caused to its customers, however the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised."

Fairfax journalist Matt Campbell was on the plane and told the Sydney Morning Herald the aircraft was still climbing.

"It seemed about half an hour in to the flight when I saw a bright orange flash, heard a loud bang and there was a big thump through the cabin," he said.

"The flight attendants were rushing about through the cabin and then eventually the PA came on and the captain said there was an engine problem with engine number three and that engine had now been shut down."

An Emirates spokesman told AFP the carrier was still working on what caused the scare but admitted passengers may have "seen a flash and heard noise".

"There was no flames or smoke," he added.

"The pilot made a decision to turn back as a precaution."