About 10 minutes before landing at Queenstown Airport there was a loud bang, a flash of white light, and for a few seconds Edward Guy thought it was all over.

"I thought the engine had blown up and fallen off," said Guy, a passenger on one of two Air New Zealand flights struck by lightning just out of Queenstown yesterday.

There was almost 3500 lightning strikes around the country yesterday, with most in the South Island on the West Coast.

As flight NZ621 on route from Auckland started to descend, the plane first struck some heavy turbulence.


"As we came through the thick clouds there was some pretty heavy turbulence," Guy said.

"Passengers were throwing up."

Then about 10 minutes from the airport the plane was struck by lightning.

"There was this intense white light and a bang at the same time. I think it hit somewhere around my feet. I was sitting right next to the engine and thought it had died and that was it.

"The feeling only lasted a few seconds though as I turned and saw the engine was still intact and the plane was flying normally."

However, as the plane descended towards the airport it next encountered strong side winds.

"We must have got to about 300m before they decided to abort the landing."

The plane rerouted and landed at Christchurch Airport, much to the relief of those on board.

"It was the first flight I have been on where people have been clapping and cheering," Guy said.

"Everyone was pretty happy to make it on to the ground, even though it was the wrong destination."

After departing Auckland at 12.05pm they were scheduled to arrive in Queenstown at 1.55pm, but didn't land until 2.45pm in Christchurch.

"The combination of pretty reasonable turbulence, lightning, strong winds on landing then having to abort the flight - it was an interesting experience," Guy said.

"I have done a lot of flying but never experienced anything like that."

The Air New Zealand staff had done a good job and sorted everyone out with accommodation in Christchurch or with transport options, Guy said.

Flight NZ605 from Wellington to Queenstown was also struck by lightning yesterday afternoon. It too diverted to Christchurch.

One of the passengers on NZ605 said there was a lot of turbulence and the plane quickly gained altitude.

Another passenger on the plane, Ben Taylor, of Wanaka, said: "There was a really loud bang. The whole plane shook and the skies outside the plane were brightly lit up. Afterwards, there was an acrid, burning smell for a few seconds."

Another passenger on the flight from Wellington, Jason Epps-Eades, said the head flight attendant kept spirits up as they "climbed out" and diverted to Christchurch.

"There was a loud sound and a flash of light that went through the plane, then a burnt smell for a few minutes," he said.

Air New Zealand said both the A320 aircraft were undergoing standard engineering checks in Christchurch.

"Lightning strikes are not uncommon. Aircraft are designed with this in mind and our pilots train for this scenario."