Air force plane struck by lightning

Last updated 12:07 08/07/2011

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A Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 was hit by lightning and had to return to Whenuapai for an emergency landing this morning.

The plane landed safely around 9.35am and all 26 people on board were uninjured.

A fire communications spokesman said the plane had to circle above the runway as a thunderstorm in the area prevented it from landing.

Air Force spokesman Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki said there was no damage to the aircraft but three fire trucks were called to the scene as a precaution.

Tamariki said the plane had just taken off from Auckland and was heading to Wellington on a routine flight with 19 passengers and seven crew on board when it was hit by lightning.

"There was no damage and no injuries, but it made a precautionary return."

Engineers were carrying out an inspection on the aircraft this morning.

This was not the first time an Air Force plane had been struck by lightning. Last year an Orion returning from Canada was struck on the nose, with the jolt going right through the plane.

It was described by those on the plane as a "big bang" which caused minor damage and some of the systems to go down, though the planes were built to withstand such things, he said.

The RNZAF has two ex-commercial Boeing 757s.

Configured for both cargo and passengers, they can carry between 186 and 279 passengers.

The Defence Force uses them extensively to service overseas forces as well as for political and diplomatic work.

Last week Prime Minister John Key used one for his India trip and next week Foreign Minister Murray McCully will tour the South Pacific in one.

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