A 50-seat passenger aircraft was grounded at Tauranga Airport this week after being struck by a bird as it was coming in to land.

Airport manager Ray Dumble said the bird strike was on an Air New Zealand Q300 flight from Auckland on Wednesday afternoon.

The plane was hit as it was landing about 12.50pm, but because there were no visible signs of impact, an engineer had to be brought over from Hamilton to make sure that none of the bird had been sucked into the engine.

The landing took place without incident but passengers booked on the return flight to Auckland had to instead go by mini bus, with priority international travellers departing earlier.

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Air New Zealand spokeswoman Emma Field confirmed the aircraft was inspected by engineers and had since returned to service. Forty-three passengers were on board the incoming flight.

"Bird strikes are not uncommon. Aircraft are designed with this in mind and pilots train for this scenario," she said.

Mr Dumble said bird strikes typically happened as planes were coming in to land, when all the engine noise was behind the aircraft. Passengers were generally unaware of what had happened.

Takeoff strikes were extremely rare because birds were scared off by planes taxiing up the runway and the combination of flashing lights and aircraft being a lot noisier on takeoff, he said.

"Our strike rates are the lowest in the country,'' Mr Dumble said.

Plovers were very clever birds and could even differentiate between vehicles that held scarers and those that did not, he said.

The airport used a variety of scaring devices to keep birds clear of runways. Gas guns were the main tool but other devices included lasers or bangers and screamers fired out of a pistol.

Mr Dumble said they changed their scaring devices all the time so that birds did not get used to one method.


Bird strikes or near miss reports at Tauranga Airport
(New Zealand totals in brackets)
2006: 70 (1489)
2008: 43 (1929)
2010: 38 (1862)
2012: 58 (1700)
2014: 50 (1515)
2016 to August 31: 53 (1363)
Source: Civil Aviation