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A student pilot whose plane lost a wheel mid-air has pulled off an incredible landing at Mangalore Airport, north of Melbourne.

The 21-year-old Chinese national had taken off from Mangalore airport for a navigation exercise about 9.30am (AEDT) when the drama unfolded.

Airport manager Joe Gagola said colleagues on the ground noticed something was trailing the plane before it was discovered it was a wheel hanging off the aircraft, which then fell off.

Student pilot forced to land a plane missing a back wheel. Photo: 7News

Mr Gagola said the pilot, who was the only person on board, spent almost four hours circling the airport to burn up fuel before making an emergency landing.

"He made an emergency landing on two wheels and did an excellent job where there was no injuries, no aircraft damage and it all ended well," he told AAP.

"He was amazingly calm."

A trainee pilot has landed a stricken plane safely in Melbourne's north. Photo: 7News

The pilot, a trainee with China Southern Airlines, has 120 hours flying experience.

He was assessed by paramedics and didn't require treatment, Ambulance Victoria spokesman John Mullen said.

Mr Gagola said it was a rare event for a plane to lose a wheel mid-air and it had never happened before at the airport.