Flights have been delayed and one was forced to divert away from Auckland Airport because a drone was spotted on the approach to the runway.

Air New Zealand flight NZ92 from Haneda, Tokyo to Auckland was diverted 500km away to Ohakea Air Force base near Palmerston North.

"Because drone sightings result in aircraft operations being suspended for a minimum of 30 minutes, the pilots of NZ92 needed to divert and refuel before returning to Auckland," an Air NZ spokesperson said.

Following the report of a drone sighting, about 20 planes circled Auckland Airport until they were given the all-clear to land.

The flight from Tokyo was diverted to Ohakea from Auckland.
The flight from Tokyo was diverted to Ohakea from Auckland.

A Police spokesman said police received a report of a drone in the Whitford area that was in airspace near the approach of an incoming aircraft that was making its way to Auckland Airport, around midday today.

"The Eagle helicopter was called to the area however the drone in question wasn't located and currently there are no lines of inquiry at this time," he said.

An Airways New Zealand statement said the pilot of a Q300 aircraft alerted air traffic control to the presence of a drone in controlled airspace.

"In accordance with standard procedures air traffic controllers reported the event to police and halted aircraft operations for 30 minutes," the statement said.

"During this time around 20 aircraft chose to hold in the air until they received clearance to land and one aircraft chose to divert."

Air NZ chief operations integrity and standards officer Captain David Morgan said flights were potentially put at risk today as a result of the reckless behaviour of a drone operator.

"This concerning trend of drones being used recklessly is putting the safety of the travelling public at risk.

"Fortunately, one of our Q300 pilots spotted the drone upon approach to Auckland Airport and immediately alerted Air Traffic Control, helping to prevent any potential incidents.


"The safety of Air NZ's customers and crew is non-negotiable and incidents involving drones are a major cause for concern.

"We welcome an investigation into the incident and the airline supports any moves by authorities to ensure drone operators do not compromise the safety of aircraft."

Passengers have taken to Twitter to voice their experiences, with one saying, "It is somewhat annoying but reassuring when the pilot comes on to tell you that your landing in Auckland is delayed because someone has been flying a drone by the airport."

Another posted, "The newest Air NZ route is Tokyo to Ohakea/Palmerston North.
- Diverted because of someone flying a drone over Auckland approach flight path... Shut down airport arrivals... hanging with the sheep while we refuel."

Flight tracker website FlightAware reported the diverted aircraft ANZ92(D) had arrived from Ohakea at Auckland Airport at 3.48pm.