Bird strike grounds flight out of Queenstown

Photo: Hugh Collins / ODT / File image
Photo: Hugh Collins / ODT / File image
An Air New Zealand flight from Queenstown to Christchurch failed to take off twice on Sunday after a suspected bird strike and "unrelated warning light".

Flight NZ654 was cancelled yesterday afternoon after the pilot made two attempts to take off but was forced to abort both on the runway due to unrelated issues, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Passenger Rickie Modi told the NZ Herald the pilot “applied the brakes strongly” and stopped on the runway.

Some passengers braced themselves during the sudden stop by holding onto the seat in front of them, Modi told the Herald

The pilot told all passengers to remain seated.

“There was much confusion from all passengers and many nervous murmurs and laughs," Modi told the Herald.

After a few minutes, the pilot said the aircraft hit a flock of birds during take-off, Modi said.

The aircraft was then reportedly piloted back to the gate and assessed for damage, the Herald reported.

The pilot attempted another take-off but aborted it on the runway again.

“While taxiing to the other end of the runway, the pilot announced that they have experienced another ‘minor malfunction’ and was attempting to fix it in the cockpit while we waited on the runway,” Modi told the Herald.

Air New Zealand head of flight operations Hugh Pearce told the Herald the flight stopped on the Queenstown runway after a “potential bird strike”.

“The aircraft returned to the gate for an engineering inspection while customers remained on board.”

Pilots are trained for bird strike scenarios, Pearce told the Herald.

The plane was then cleared for take off after the initial incident. But “an unrelated warning light came on” during the second attempt.

“The aircraft returned to the gate for a further engineering inspection. As we couldn’t guarantee how long the inspection would take, the decision was made to cancel the flight,” Pearce told the Herald.