Wellington flights disrupted as wild winds hit

16:00, Jan 02 2013
A fisherman tries his luck at Oriental Bay.
A fisherman tries his luck at Oriental Bay.
A pedestrian battles a sudden gust in Wellington.
A pedestrian battles a sudden gust in Wellington.
The Neil family, from left, Alex, 8, Ruth and Barry, struggle with a tent during strong gusts at their Lower Hutt campground.
The Neil family, from left, Alex, 8, Ruth and Barry, struggle with a tent during strong gusts at their Lower Hutt campground.
The missing section on the north side of the Wanganui River bridge, in South Westland after it washed away on Wednesday.
The missing section on the north side of the Wanganui River bridge, in South Westland after it washed away on Wednesday.

Gales at Wellington Airport caused hair-raising landings for passengers, as well as flight cancellations and delays yesterday.

One flight diverted to Auckland just before touchdown, leaving its passengers stranded overnight.

Passengers on an 11.35am Jetstar flight reported the plane's nose lifting as it turned sharply from side to side. Moments later, the captain made the decision to turn back to Auckland.

Some of the 164 people on board had to wait until this morning for a replacement flight. Others waited most of the afternoon.

Wellington man Jamie Smith said he finally got on a flight that left at 5pm, and the landing in the capital was one of the scariest he had experienced.

"I thought if there's ever a time a plane's going to crash in Wellington, this is it.

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"The flight was fine but when we came down around Makara we got caught in these crosswinds.

"It was like one of the craziest rollercoaster rides. All the kids were screaming. I think everyone thought we weren't going to land."

Wind gusts of more than 120kmh were reported in the capital about noon, and were expected to reach 140kmh in the evening.

The gusts made life harder for Ruth and Barry Neil of Christchurch, trying to put up their tent at the Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park in Seaview, Lower Hutt.

The family - from the earthquake-damaged eastern suburbs of Christchurch - were on day one of their 10-day road trip to Rotorua.

"Bugger living here," Mrs Neil said. "I'd rather a shake than this."

The winds are expected to die out today.

The Dominion Post