29 Sep 2018

Air Niugini plane crashes into Micronesian lagoon

2:47 pm on 29 September 2018

All of the passengers and crew that were on board an Air Niugini plane that crashed into a lagoon in the Federated States of Micronesia are reported to be safe.

The Air Niugini plane in the lagoon off Weno airport in Chuuk.

The Air Niugini plane in the lagoon off Weno airport in Chuuk. Photo: AFP or licensors

The Boeing 737-800 was scheduled to stop in Chuuk on its way from Pohnpei to Port Moresby. The airline reports the plane was carrying 35 passengers and 12 crew.

"It was supposed to land but instead of landing it was 150 yards short and she went down," Jimmy Emilio, general manager of Chuuk Airport at Weno in Micronesia, told Reuters by phone.

"We don't really know what happened ... people were rescued by boats - 36 passengers and 11 crew were all rescued, only the plane is sinking right now," he said.

The Boeing 737 aircraft hit the lagoon surrounding the small island about 9.30am local time, Mr Emilio said. The passengers and crew were taken to hospital but no serious injuries were reported.

RNZ Pacific's correspondent Giff Johnson said small boats quickly went out to help rescue passengers from the plane before it sank in the waters off the runway in the Chuuk capital, Weno.

"It clearly wasn't a crash, in the sense of a plane going down and coming apart. The plane seemed to be intact and that fits in with landing on the runway and then shooting off which we've had some experience with, with other airlines."

All through Micronesia generally runways are short, according to Giff Johnson, who's based in the Marshall Islands capital, Majuro.

"On a normal landing you end up 30m from the end of the runway and the end of the runway means water," he said.

Air Niugini in Port Moresby was not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for Papua New Guinea's Accident Investigation Commission said investigators would fly to the scene as soon as possible to piece together what happened.

In 2013, all 101 passengers aboard a Lion Air flight that overshot the runway at Denpasar in Indonesia and landed in shallow water were similarly rescued by boats without casualties.

An Asia Pacific Airlines Boeing 727 cargo plane overran the runway in Pohnpei 10 years ago.

According to reports it came to a rest with its nosewheel in the water of the lagoon at the end of the 1800m runway in May 2008.

The Air Niugini plane in the lagoon off Weno airport in Chuuk.

Photo: Supplied

- Reuters / RNZ Pacific