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Current as of 08/02/16 09:19AM NZST

John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Runway lights wrecked

Wayward airliner makes destructive Auckland take-off

The LAN Chile Airbus A340 which hit runway lights at Auckland Airport. Photo / Javier Pedreira
The LAN Chile Airbus A340 which hit runway lights at Auckland Airport. Photo / Javier Pedreira

A plane has smashed runway lights during a take-off described as "extremely abnormal" at Auckland International Airport.

An investigation has been launched into the Chilean airline LAN flight last Saturday, which later landed in Sydney on damaged tyres.

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission confirmed the incident this week, in which the aircraft strayed from the middle of the runway during take-off and smashed several lights which stand 30cm high and line the tarmac.

"It appears that a LAN Chile A340 on take-off from Auckland at about 6.20am on Saturday morning was incorrectly lined up on one edge of the runway, rather than the centre line.

"As a result there was some damage to airport lighting," commission spokesman Peter Northcote told the Herald on Sunday.

The lights were about 20cm to 30cm off the ground and 60m apart along the length of the runway, airport spokeswoman Katie Moore said.

Aviation commentator Peter Clark said, "For an aircraft to be that far off the centre line, I would be concerned. To do that in a take-off is not normal at all. I would say it's extremely abnormal."

Clark said the pilot "would've known he was off to the side of the runway, definitely".

The Airbus website said A340 plane models had four engines and could seat 240 to 359 people.

Airways Corporation, the State-owned enterprise responsible for the runway and lights, confirmed an Airbus A340 broke about seven runway lights. "They were repaired as soon as they were discovered," corporation spokeswoman Philippa Sellens said. The lights were worth about $355 each, putting the cost of the damage at almost $2,500.

Northcote said the plane continued on, although he understood "some tyre damage" was discovered in Sydney. He said LAN was co-operating with the investigation.

The commission's investigation into the "runway excursion" could take until next April to complete. The commission is currently investigating 12 rail, 14 aviation and seven marine incidents and disasters.

Last January's Carterton balloon tragedy is one of the catastrophes under inquiry. LAN would not comment.

- Herald on Sunday

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