Brickbats, bouquets for Jetstar

Passengers from a weekend Jetstar flight have told of a collective gasp, then silence after multiple explosions and flames from one engine of the plane.

Jetstar is investigating the engine fault in a jet headed to Dunedin that had to return to Auckland, and will report the results to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Although the aeroplane landed safely, some have complained about the way the airline handled the situation, saying communication could have been better.

However, others have applauded the way the pilots safely returned the jet to the runway, and praised staff for their work.

Passengers on the Saturday afternoon flight to Dunedin were returned to Auckland after the engine problems arose during the Airbus A320's ascent.

Jade Salmon, of Waiheke Island, was a passenger on the 2.10pm flight.

She said in Dunedin yesterday "everyone gasped'' when the engine problems became apparent.

Mrs Salmon was on the flight with her four children (aged 7, 4, 21 months and 3 months) and her mother, on the way to visit relatives in Dunedin.

"I had a window seat a few rows behind the engine, It sounded like a puttering of a car when you don't have it in the right gear; the plane shook and there were flashes of orange in the engine with some flames.''

Everyone was waiting to hear from the captain, Mrs Salmon said.

"I guess we were kind of worried, but he [the captain] was circling, and we weren't that high off the ground.

"I think that was better we were lower than higher.''

She said she did not really fear for her life, as the engines were still going.

The captain finally made an announcement as the flight was returning, and another when the aeroplane was on the ground, Mrs Salmon said.

Staff were "amazing'', she said.

Christine Crothers, of Dunedin, was "trying to calm a young student sitting in the aisle seat opposite me who had ... grabbed on to me, and was literally terrified because someone said there were flames coming from the wing''.

She said the cabin crew remained seated and showed no signs of panic, "but I realised that we weren't getting any higher in the air and that something had gone wrong''.

A Jetstar spokesman said the fault was in one engine shortly after take-off.

The landing was normal, and customers were accommodated on later services.

"These next generation aircraft are designed to operate with one engine and, in this case, operated with one engine on full power and the other on reduced power.''

The airline's engineers were investigating the cause of the fault.

The captain's priority was the safety of the plane and passengers first, and after that informing passengers.

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