A pilot declared an emergency when he heard a bang in the light aircraft he was flying with seven people on board early this afternoon.

The Sounds Air Cessna Caravan was on its way from Wellington to Picton when the pilot heard a bang in the cockpit shortly before 1pm, Sounds Air managing director Andrew Crawford said.

The pilot declared an emergency and decided to instead land at Marlborough Airport where there were more services.

"When you hear a bang in the plane of course it causes concern but everyone was pretty full of praise for the pilot so that was good,'' Mr Crawford said.


"That's what we train them for.''

When he landed about 1pm, the pilot noticed a piece of metal - the "heat shield'' which protects the luggage pod from the exhaust - had come loose.

"The bang was the heat shield bending back on itself and hitting the pod,'' Mr Crawford said.

No-one was hurt and the plane had been repaired and was already back in the air.

"In hindsight it was a pretty minor incident but the pilot made the right decision to declare an emergency and to go to the right airport.''

The rest of the airline's fleet would be checked but did not need to be grounded, Mr Crawford said.

Marlborough Airport chief executive Dean Heiford said a full emergency had been declared with the Defence Force, Fire Service, police and airport staff put on standby.

"The aircraft landed safely, although rather hard, and is now sitting on the apron.

The airport shares its runways with the RNZAF's Woodbourne base.