Full alert as plane diverted

A technician inspects the nose wheel assembly of an Eagle Air Beech 1900D aircraft that made an emergency landing at Blenheim Airport early this afternoon.
A technician inspects the nose wheel assembly of an Eagle Air Beech 1900D aircraft that made an emergency landing at Blenheim Airport early this afternoon.

A plane with 12 passengers and two crew on board was diverted from Wellington to Blenheim late this morning when the pilot radioed that he thought the front wheel of the Beech 1900D aircraft was flat. 

Eagle Air flight NZ2239 took off from Gisborne at 10.50am and landed safely at Blenheim at 12.10am amid a full emergency callout.

Sergeant Mark Kirkwood, of Blenheim, said the pilot had felt some sort of vibration on the 19-seater plane. He raised the alarm and was diverted from Wellington to Blenheim, about 80km away on the southern side of Cook Strait, where a full emergency was declared.

Blenheim Airport, 5km west of Blenheim, was cordoned off with only emergency services allowed into the airport for a short time.

Passenger Dave Harrison, of Gisborne, told the Marlborough Express later that the pilot told passengers he thought one of the wheels might be flat and lowered the landing gear so they could look out the window and check.

They couldn't see anything, but raised the alarm as a precaution, Mr Harrison said.

The 12 passengers were "pretty laid back'' , he said.

While one older woman was a bit nervous, no one panicked.

The two crew on the flight did a good job keeping everyone informed, although seeing the fire engines at the airport as they landed "was a bit of a buzz".

''There's always that thought in the back of the mind [when you fly] but I was with the wife and had to put on a brave face,'' Mr Harrison said.

The passengers were taken to a lounge after the plane landed and Air New Zealand spokeswoman Andrea Dale said they had been rebooked on other services out of Blenheim.

Engineers had inspected the plane and it had been put back into service, she said.

Mr Kirkwood said the incident would be reported to the Civil Aviation Authority to investigate.

The Marlborough Express