Air New Zealand believe a tyre coming into contact with a runway light led to the dramatic landing of a Dunedin-bound flight on Friday night.

Passengers on flight NZ5759 were heading from Christchurch to Dunedin just after 7pm when they were told the plane had to be turned around because it had "hit something'' and needed to be checked further.

The aircraft, an ATR-72 turboprop, turned back towards Christchurch at 7.40pm, Flight Radar 24 shows. It landed safely at 8pm.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson confirmed this afternoon that an "initial investigation has found scuff marks on one of the aircraft's tyres".


"This suggests the tyre may have made contact with a runway light," the spokesperson said.

"The aircraft was checked after returning and went back into service this morning. The safety of customers and crew is paramount and non-negotiable which is why the pilots elected to return to Christchurch, so the aircraft could be inspected immediately by engineers."

A statement from Air NZ last night said it was believed a wheel in the main landing gear had made contact with an object on departure.

"The aircraft made a normal landing ... and will be inspected by engineers,'' Air NZ said.

Passengers affected by last night's incident were due to be accommodated on other flights today.