28 Jul 2010

Pacific Blue involved in second incident over Queenstown

3:06 pm on 28 July 2010

A Pacific Blue jet which contravened visual flight rules at Queenstown airport in June was the second incident involving one of the airline's Boeing 737's in two days.

On 20 June, a Pacific Blue flight came within 300 vertical metres of a Qantas jet in the skies over Queenstown.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is looking into the incident which is described as "loss of separation".

The Pacific Blue pilot was coming in to land at Queenstown but elected to perform a 'go around' procedure due to bad weather and came close to the Qantas plane.

Pacific Blue will not comment on the loss of separation incident, but TAIC has confirmed it is investigating the matter.

Passenger feared for life on turbulent flight

A passenger on a Pacific Blue flight being investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority says he feared for his life throughout a turbulent and extremely low flight from Queenstown airport.

The jet, carrying 65 passengers and six crew, took off for Sydney from the mountainous resort town on 22 June, outside daylight hours, which is forbidden by airport operating rules.

The passenger, known as Simon, told Morning Report the Boeing 737 moved a lot as it took off and seemed to drop once it had.

He said it was probably the scariest take-off he had ever experienced and he thought the plane was going to crash in Lake Wakatipu.

Witnesses have reported seeing the plane flying low and in cloud, as it negotiated its way through the mountains.

The two pilots have been stood down by Pacific Blue while the Civil Aviation Authority investigates.

There are no runway lights or radar at South Island airport, so pilots have to operate on visual flight rules and be clear of the airport 30 minutes before twilight.

Incident not expected to hurt tourism

A tourism agency in Queenstown is confident the incident will not affect the resort area's reputation.

Destination Queenstown says Queenstown's image should not be tarnished by what has happened. It says it is unlikely to lead to a drop in visitor numbers.