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Current as of 27/10/16 12:19PM NZST
Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Horrific turbulence on Air NZ flight: 'I thought that might be the end of me'

The result of horrific turbulence during dinner service. Photo / Reddit.
The result of horrific turbulence during dinner service. Photo / Reddit.

Passengers on an Air New Zealand flight from Tokyo to Auckland have described the panic and chaos that erupted after the plane encountered horrific turbulence during dinner service.

Passengers screamed as the plane dropped sharply twice without warning and started shaking violently sending wine arcing into the overhead luggage compartments and fully laden food trays littering aisles.


The flight was an hour out of Tokyo when it dropped and started shaking, sending everything up in the air and spraying wine on to the cabin roof.

One passenger, posting on Reddit with username Ollieislame, said the plane was filled with screams.

"It was terrifying actually. I thought that might be the end of me. It was a red-eye flight so we got breakfast at the end of the flight in the morning.

"We were only an hour into the flight. We had a little bump-de-bump at first and then all of a sudden the plane just dropped and started shaking like crazy.

"Then the second drop came. Everything up in the air, wine on the roof. Quite a few screams and general terror."

Another passenger, whose username was falsabaiana, wrote: "A guy did get burned by the tea. This was an hour into a 10-hour flight so you can imagine the smell by the end. Stuff was even spattered on the ceiling. The Air NZ staff deserve a medal."

The terrifying experience has put some off flying. "I honestly thought the plane was going down," said passenger Rebecca Batten. "It sounded like we had lost an engine. I was drenched with red wine and salad and was sitting two seats away from the man who was burned by the teapot. I had a flight attendant on the ground beside me, clinging to my seat for safety."

Aucklander Dr Phil Clark, travelling with his two young sons and partner, said the flight had left him shaken and he would not be hurrying back into the air.

"All of our drinks went several feet into the air landing either on us or in the aisle. My boys were petrified with the 9-year-old repeatedly saying 'I don't want to die' and 12-year-old clasping his chair, pale with fear, which was extremely upsetting for me as their father."

He said it took many minutes of reassurance and prayer to help his children through the ordeal. His youngest clung tightly to him for the rest of the flight, he said.

Auckland chef Oliver Philp said it was the most frightening experience he had ever had in the air.

"When it did drop between the food flying everywhere and people screaming it was pretty terrifying," he said.

"It's a bit strange wondering if you're going to die in the next few seconds or not."

He said his partner, who wore his glass of gin for the rest of the flight, clutched tightly to his arm.

He described how everyone started screaming when the plane suddenly dropped and everything that was not secured went flying through the cabin.

"The roof was covered in wine but the floor wasn't in a very good state. It wasn't safe to walk anywhere in bare feet."

And then the plane suddenly plunged a second time.

"At first people were startled and confused. The terror didn't really set in for most people until the second drop because it doesn't normally happened in twos."

He said cabin staff were very apologetic when passengers were getting off the plane.

"Many crew members came down the passage just apologising. We had the pilot come down to apologise to one of the passengers that did get injured, which was a nice sentiment."

Ms Batten said passengers were traumatised. She was disappointed the captain kept quiet throughout the ordeal.

Another passengers said she was sitting towards the rear of the aircraft.

"People were screaming, crying and praying.

"Flying food was the least of our worries while we contemplated falling out of the sky into the middle of the Pacific Ocean after two downward plunges, very serious rolling and shaking over 10 minutes of sheer terror."

She said it took nearly 15 minutes for the pilot to bring the aircraft into calmer air.

"The crew members were terrified and the voice over the load speaker was very shaky stating there was no cause for concern yet. Not very reassuring.

"While these are apparently rare occurrences, they are terrifying. Imagine turning to your partner thinking you are saying you love them for the last time."

Weatherwatch forecaster Philip Duncan said turbulence was a rare but scary occurrence.

Air New Zealand today said Flight NZ90 encountered unexpected, strong turbulence during a meal service, which caused "some catering items to fall from service carts".

Doctors travelling on the flight checked a small number of injured passengers but no further medical treatment was needed once the plane landed in Auckland, she said.

There were 294 passengers and 13 crew on the Boeing 787-9.

- NZ Herald

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