Is it a bird, is it a royals' plane?

23:10, Apr 02 2014
An RNZAF Boeing 757 Jet makes a series of take offs and landings at Marlborough Airport

Reporters' in the Express office in Blenheim darted to the windows yesterday morning when a thunderous sound of a twin-engine jet rumbled overhead.

Was it the same Boeing 757 that is to ferry Prince William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, on their New Zealand tour next week?

It seemed to be an obvious conclusion that the pilots were making sure they knew the lie of the land before they have the important guests on board.

Two hercules parked at Marlborough Airport

The plane landed at Base Woodbourne about 10am. It was a very short landing with lots of reverse thrust and it quickly took off again with a steep ascent, did a lap around Blenheim and landed a second time.

A man at the airport said it appeared the plane was practising its takeoffs and landings.

Last month the Express reported test runs for the royal visit were foiled by fog, but officials declined to comment at the time.


William and Catherine are expected to arrive in Marlborough on an RNZAF Boeing 757 on Thursday next week, and are expected to be accompanied by Prime Minister John Key, Opposition leader David Cunliffe and Defence Force chief Tim Keating.

Royal tour media spokesman Allen Walley said yesterday he was unaware of any test runs being carried out in Blenheim and referred the Express to the Defence Force. However, a Defence communications spokeswoman said the special flights were nothing to do with the royals.

It was just coincidence the Boeing 757 was in Marlborough a week before the royal couple were due to arrive.

It landed at Woodbourne for "routine continuation training", she said. "It's all routine training. "It has nothing to do with the royal visit."

Meantime, two C-130 Hercules aircraft were seen in the skies on Monday and Tuesday and were parked on the tarmac at the base early on Tuesday night.

The spokeswoman said the Hercules were from the Royal Australian Air Force and were on a "conversion course" flying around the South Island to train pilots on flying different aircraft.

That was also "regular training" and had no relation to the royals arriving in Blenheim.

Whatever the reason the planes were here, it is out of the ordinary and has continued to build excitement leading up to the royal visit next week.

The Marlborough Express