An Air Chathams flight was forced to touch down soon after taking off from Whanganui Airport after a bird strike knocked out one of its two engines.
At least one bird was sucked into an engine of Air Chathams' Convair 580 plane as it took off from Whanganui Airport on Sunday March 25, the airline's general manager Duane Emeny has confirmed.
The engine stopped working, and the pilots flew to Palmerston North Airport where it was inspected. The 50 passengers arrived in Auckland about two hours late.
The Convair is an older aircraft, Mr Emeny said, but it has two powerful engines.
"It flies very nicely on one engine, if it has to."
Pilots handled the incident well.
"The guys did an extremely good job. Every six months we practise the procedures for having an engine failure on take-off."
There have been at least two other "bird strike" near-misses at Whanganui Airport, mainly on a plane's arrival.
Mr Emeny has talked to its manager, Phil McBride, about stepping up bird scaring work.
The plane took off on Sunday morning at 10.30. It was an additional flight, just for Clubs New Zealand members returning after their AGM.
"As it was rotating to take off a large flock of birds flew in front of the airplane and at least one of those birds was sucked into the engine," Mr Emeny said.
An aircraft safety system kicked in, that engine was shut down and its propeller angled to rotate parallel to air flow.
Whanganui Airport has no emergency services, so the plane flew to Palmerston North where an Air Chathams engineer from Marton inspected it before it flew on to Auckland.
The incident has ignited a lot of conversation about clearing birds from the airport.
"We've had at least two reports of near misses before. It's a problem with Whanganui. It's something that the airport company need to focus on. We don't want this happening again," Mr Emeny said.
In this week's incident the bird sucked into the plane was a plover, airport manager Phil McBride said.
The airport has an active bird scaring and bird culling programme. It begins every morning about 6am with a drive of the runways to scare birds before the first flight.
But the birds' presence is sporadic and unpredictable.
"For the last two days we've had a bird shooter out, but there's been virtually nothing for him to shoot at."
The airport will do as much as possible, including using a bird scaring device. The incidence of bird strike there is very low, Mr McBride said.
There was also a bird strike at Palmerston North Airport on March 27, as an Air New Zealand plane arrived. The departure of that plane was delayed by an hour.