Anxious wait for plane passengers before emergency landing at Palmerston North
Circling above the airport, her plane unable to land, Stella Brimble was terrified.
The Nelson woman was one of 64 passengers on board an Air New Zealand flight from Auckland that was never intended to be in the Manawatu skies on Sunday afternoon, trying to burn fuel before attempting an emergency landing at Palmerston North Airport.
Flight NZ5075 and Brimble had meant to be landing in Nelson. She said the passengers were told there was an issue with one of the landing gear wheels.
The plane was diverted to Palmerston North because the runway was wider and safer, she said.
Aboard the plane for two-and-a-half-hours, almost twice as long as the intended flight time, Brimble prayed for her two children, aged three and six.
"For me it was terrifying. You just think worst case scenarios."
"I was in an emergency exit [seat] at the front - I thought I was was going to have to jump out of the window and onto the tarmac."
A naturally nervous flier, Brimble said there were all sorts of thoughts going through her head.
But passengers remained calm and did as they were instructed by airline staff.
"I think the Air New Zealand staff did really well considering the conditions."
She was looking forward to a shower and a good night sleep.
"Brace, brace, brace," were the words passenger Matt Davidson recalled as the plane eventually landed.
He said there was "a lot of smoke" billowing from the plane when it safely landed, and he believed one of the wheels had burst on impact.
Davidson said the Air New Zealand staff had acted professionally throughout the flight and the captain regularly informed passengers what was happening.
Air New Zealand confirmed in a statement that the plane had been diverted to Palmerston North with a suspected nose gear issue.
The aircraft had landed without incident at 4.45pm. Pilots followed standard operating procedures and requested emergency services be on standby for the landing, the statement said.
Passengers on the flight were shuttled to the terminal but were diverted from entering through the main gate.
"The Captain met and debriefed customers in the terminal. They will now be transported by road to Wellington to continue their journeys.
The aircraft will remain on the runway until it has been inspected by engineers and as a result nine remaining Air New Zealand services into and out of Palmerston North have been cancelled."
Brittany Barton and Sarah Peterson were trying to get back to Christchurch on Sunday night.
The girls, along with many others at the airport, had been at the Dixie Chicks concert at Mission Estate in Hawke's Bay on Saturday night.
Barton said the next flight she was able to get back to Christchurch was on Tuesday morning. She would then have to drive back home from Wanaka, missing two days of work.
Feilding woman Vanessa Story was trying to fly to Auckland on Sunday night. Her flight had been cancelled after the incident.
Story was a sprinter and said she was flying to California on Monday morning to race with a group from Whanganui.
Despite the cancellation, she was grateful everyone on board the diverted flight were safe.
Palmerston North woman Robyn Christensen was waiting at the airport for a friend to arrive on a flight from Christchurch.
"Palmerston North doesn't usually have drama," she said.
Henery Blackley, 11, said he had never seen the airport so busy before.
Five fire engines and support crews were at Palmerston North airport assisting airport staff, and road traffic had been diverted from Milson Line due to the drama.
A police media spokeswoman said police had been made aware of the incident.