Air New Zealand flight to Tonga forced to turn back due to airport lighting issue

The Auckland to Tonga route is serviced by an Airbus A320-232, and a Boeing 777-200.
Bevan Read/Fairfax.co.nz

The Auckland to Tonga route is serviced by an Airbus A320-232, and a Boeing 777-200.

An Air New Zealand flight to Tonga was forced to turn back because of an issue with the airport runway lighting.

Flight NZ974 departed Auckland just after 5pm on Tuesday, and was en route to Fua'amotu International Airport when crew were informed the runway lighting was not operating, so the plane would be unable to land.

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The flight diverted to Fiji's Nadi International Airport for refuelling before returning to Auckland.
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The flight diverted to Fiji's Nadi International Airport for refuelling before returning to Auckland.

The aircraft diverted to Fiji's Nadi International Airport to make a refuelling stop before returning to Auckland, landing around 1.10am.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the return leg of the service, NZ977 from Tonga to Auckland, was also cancelled as a result of the plane being unable to land.

The airline would operate an additional return service between Auckland and Tonga on Wednesday during daylight hours in order to accommodate impacted customers.

Fua'amotu International Airport underwent a major upgrade earlier this year, including the resurfacing of the runway to make it possible for a Boeing 777 to land there.

Air New Zealand began using a Boeing 777-200 to service the route in April, in addition to its five weekly services by the Airbus A320.

A spokesman for Fua'amotu International Airport said the runway lights had been tested at 5.42pm on Tuesday to ensure they were operational.

However, when they were switched on at 6.33pm, they were no longer working.

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"Aircraft on the ground and in the air were notified accordingly and a couple of aircraft destined for Fua'amotu diverted to their nominated alternates," he said.

"The problem was identified as a faulty cable which triggered the failure. The problem was fixed last night around midnight. Fua'amotu is currently fully operational for day and night operations."

The spokesman said three flights were affected. 

Other international airlines with regular services to Fuaʻamotu include Fiji Airways and Virgin Australia.

 - Stuff

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