June 19, 2007

Inquiries start into plane's belly-landing

Two investigations are under way after an Air New Zealand aircraft was forced to belly-land at Blenheim yesterday.

The Beechcraft 1900D, operated by Eagle Air, was on a flight from Timaru to Wellington with 15 passengers and two crew on board.

It circled Wellington Airport several times when its landing gear failed to come down, then headed to Blenheim, where it circled for almost an hour before belly-landing on the runway at 9.15am.

The captain, an experienced Eagle Air pilot, performed a wheels-up landing and the aircraft was doused in foam by emergency crews.

The landing was described as textbook, and the 17 occupants walked away from the aircraft safely, although two were taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

Fire crew from the nearby Woodbourne Air Force base were alerted to the problem and were among emergency personnel on alert.

The landing is being investigated by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and Eagle Air.

Eagle Air general manager Doug Roberts said safety was paramount and non-negotiable for his airline.

"Our pilots undergo some of the most extensive training in the industry and dealing with emergency situations like this is a cornerstone of their training.

"Our initial assessment is that the crew did an excellent job of executing a textbook wheels-up landing in thecircumstances."

He said Eagle Air had already launched an internal investigation and the Transport Accident Investigation Commission has already started its inquiry.

A special support team was flown to Blenheim to offer further assistance to those on the flight.

About 60 grounded passengers, whose flights were suspended, watched from the terminal as debris broke off from the plane as it landed.

Seconds later, emergency services from Renwick, Blenheim and Woodbourne rushed to the aircraft.

The 15 passengers, including a pregnant woman, and the two pilots were taken away in a bus to another part of the airport.

Three Victim Support workers were on hand to assist the shaken passengers.

Passenger Derek Zandbergen said travellers were told as the plane came into Wellington there was a problem with the landing gear. People did not panic, but the atmosphere in the cabin was subdued, he said.

The full of this article's can be read on the source at: The New Zealand Herald

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