Plane brings runway to a halt

ISOBEL EWING AND BLANTON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2014
Kiwi Sparky
STRANDED SPARKY: Robert Webb, of Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre, was about to board the Auckland-bound flight with his one-legged Kiwi Sparky.

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Sparky the one-legged kiwi wasn't the only flightless passenger yesterday when a broken-down plane on the runway thwarted flights in and out of New Plymouth.

New Plymouth Airport was closed after an Air New Zealand plane lost its steering and came to a halt on the runway.

The Dash 8 Q300 was heading to Wellington when the steering in its nose-wheel packed up about 2.40pm.

Forty two passengers who were on the plane at the time were later taken off and bussed to Wellington.

Airport Facilities Officer Frank Conway said the airport had been closed and a number of flights cancelled following the incident.

An Air New Zealand engineer was flown from Nelson by helicopter to work on the plane, he said.

Sparky the kiwi was on his annual trip to Taranaki with his minder, Robert Webb of Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre, organised by the East Taranaki Environment Trust. Despite a throng of excited passengers eager to snap a photo of the unexpected traveller, Sparky remained unflappable.

Webb said he might take Sparky out on the grass outside the terminal for afternoon tea.

"I don't know if they have a bowl of worms in the Koru Club for him."

Dallas Bright was due to head back to Auckland yesterday afternoon after a work trip to New Plymouth.

He wasn't fazed about being stranded for another night at the Nice Hotel.

"Terry (Parkes) looks after me, I've got a room and I'm on the second flight to Auckland tomorrow to be on the safe side."

Nor was Murray Gadd worried about the hassle, despite needing to get to a friend's 90th birthday in Wellington today.

"I fly a lot so I'm used to this sort of thing - you have to relax and go with the flow, the airlines do their best."

Light planes could land with approval from the tower on the grass runway alongside the main runway, but nothing else could.

Neighbouring farmer Brendan Thomson used his John Deere tractor to tow the Dash 8 Q300 off the runway.

The airport briefly reopened at 7pm for an incoming Christchurch and normal flight schedules resume today.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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