Passengers praise Air New Zealand crew after bird is sucked into plane engine.
Passengers praise Air New Zealand crew after bird is sucked into plane engine. David Stuart

Air New Zealand praised after bird mishap

PASSENGERS on board an Air New Zealand plane bound for Tonga that hit birds just before take off from Auckland today are full of praise for the pilots and crew on board.

Flight NZ970 encountered a bird strike in the early stages of take-off from Auckland Airport and pilots opted to halt the take-off as a precaution, Air New Zealand said.

Passenger Mary Haddock-Staniland said the pilots and crew of the Airbus A320 were "amazing" in keeping travellers informed about the incident, which occurred just after 8.30am.

"I was s*** scared," she said.

"As we were going to take off...I'm sure the front wheel was off the ground and then we just heard a noise from the right-hand side of the aircraft, which is where the bird went into the wing.

"It rattled and made a hell of a racket."

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Pilots put the brakes on and informed passengers exactly what had happened, she said.

"The response from Air New Zealand has been amazing, they kept us very well informed as to what was happening."

She admitted to being "a little bit nervous" about getting on another plane to continue her trip to Tonga, but a few glasses of champagne was "dulling" the emotion.

Another passenger, Siaki Tuionetoa, thanked the pilots for their actions.

"It was truly a thrill when all of a sudden the plane pulled the brakes.

"I've never experienced this before and I just want to thank the two pilots for their outstanding work and making sure we make a safe trip over the Pacific. Thank you."

Passengers were returned to the terminal by bus and arrangements were being made to rebook them.

Air New Zealand said emergency services attended as a precaution.

Northern fire communications shift manager Nicole Bernard said nine appliances were sent to the scene.

"It's a normal response to a full emergency," Ms Bernard said.

An airport spokesman said the runway was temporarily closed but had since reopened.

He advised passengers check their airlines' websites on flight time