31 August 2011

GBA Emergency

Three fire trucks, an ambulance and several police officers raced to Whangarei Airport when an aircraft carrying a pilot and eight passengers touched down with one of its twin engines out of action yesterday. The Great Barrier Airlines 10-seater Piper Chieftain left Whangarei about 8am on a charter flight to Kaitaia with Northland District Health Board staff heading for a day's work in outpatient clinics at Kaitaia Hospital. Whangarei Airport manager Mike Chubb said the pilot had missed his approach to land at Kaitaia and when he applied full power to bring the aircraft around for another approach he noticed the right engine was "playing up" so he shut it down. Poor weather conditions ruled out a one-engine landing at Kaitaia and because the weather at Kerikeri was also poor the pilot decided to return to Whangarei, where the plane landed about 9.45am without problems despite one of its twin engines not functioning. Mr Chubb said the aircraft was quite safe flying on one engine and with the propeller on the other engine feathered. But he did not expect the Piper to fly out of Whangarei before its right engine had been checked, either by engineers based at the airport or by a maintenance crew sent north from the Great Barrier Airlines base at Dairy Flat near Auckland. Great Barrier Airlines administration manager Anna Davidson later told the Northern Advocate the Piper had no engine problems and had been diverted because of the weather. Asked why it had been using only one engine, she said: "I wouldn't have the faintest idea." A request to speak to the airline's chief executive officer, Gerard Rea, was refused. Northland District health Board acting chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain yesterday apologised to Kaitaia Hospital patients who were going to be seen by the Whangarei staff. "But I am sure upon learning about the emergency landing they will understand our reasoning."

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