Bird strike forces Virgin Australia flight to turn back to Christchurch

The Virgin flight was over Banks Peninsula when passengers were told it would have to turn back. (FILE PHOTO)

The Virgin flight was over Banks Peninsula when passengers were told it would have to turn back. (FILE PHOTO)

A Virgin Australia flight from Christchurch to Melbourne was forced to turn back on Sunday after a bird strike damaged the plane. 

Ethan Cowan, a Melbourne-based passenger aboard flight VA101, said the aircraft vibrated "violently" upon takeoff and that there was "quite a bit of noise" through the cabin. 

However, he said no one thought much of it until the pilot announced, shortly after the crew had said in-flight service would begin, that the plane had struck a bird so it would have to turn back. 

The Boeing 737-800 landed safely about half an hour after take-off, and an inspection by engineers uncovered minor damage to an engine blade.  

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A Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed that the flight had arrived safely back in Christchurch after a bird strike. 

"All guests were reaccommodated onto alternative services and have since arrived in Melbourne. Safety is Virgin Australia's number one priority and after an inspection of the aircraft, our engineers expect it to return to flying this afternoon."

The spokesperson was not immediately able to clarify which part of the plane was damaged or if it returned on one engine. 

Cowan said passengers remained calm throughout the ordeal, although he overheard a few admit once they were back at the terminal that they had been nervous. 

He commended the captain and crew for keeping passengers informed but said he was particularly impressed by the Air New Zealand staff who looked after them upon their return to Christchurch. 

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"A few people were a bit grumpy but as soon as Air NZ took over, they sorted everything out."

The airline gave passengers the option of onward flights to Melbourne the next day, either in the early morning or early afternoon and covered their accommodation costs. 

"Not enough can be said for how Air NZ staff handled it considering they were dealing with another company and under instructions from them too," Cowan said. 

 - Stuff


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