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Qantas incident: Bird strike forces Auckland-bound plane back to Sydney airport

Peta Rasdien and Warren Barnsley
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Half an hour into its trip to Auckland on Friday morning, the plane had to turn back after a bird strike. 
Half an hour into its trip to Auckland on Friday morning, the plane had to turn back after a bird strike.  Credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

A passenger on board a Qantas plane forced to turn around mid-flight and return to Sydney airport has described the fraught moments after a bird strike, saying a terrible smell first signalled something was wrong.

Flight QF141 turned back about 30 minutes into its trip to Auckland on Friday morning after hitting what has been described as a “huge gull”.

The Boeing 737 plane left Sydney just after 7am and landed safely at the same airport about two hours later.

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A flight tracking website shows the plane travelled hundreds of kilometres into the Tasman Sea before turning around, then circling above Sydney’s north several times. No passengers or crew were injured.

Passenger James Hita was on the plane traveling to Auckland to meet his partner to celebrate their first anniversary.

The first sign of trouble came when the “cabin was filled with a foul stench”, he said.

About 15 minutes later the captain announced the plane had experienced a bird strike and in another announcement that they would have to turn back.

A flight tracking website shows the Qantas plane turning around over the Tasman Sea.
A flight tracking website shows the Qantas plane turning around over the Tasman Sea. Credit: flightradar24

Mr Hita praised the flight crew’s handling of the incident but said Qantas’ communication with passengers once they were on the ground could have been better.

While Qantas had initially hoped to get passengers on another flight later on Friday, he’d since been told that he would have to wait until Saturday.

It is understood engineers cleared the plane to return to the skies, however, the flight crew would have exceeded their operational hours, meaning the flight had to be cancelled rather than delayed.

Mr Hita said some passengers had been keen for the flight to keep heading to its destination, however, he said he was glad the pilots had prioritised safety.

Passenger James Hita was on the plane traveling to Auckland to meet his partner to celebrate their first anniversary.
Passenger James Hita was on the plane traveling to Auckland to meet his partner to celebrate their first anniversary. Credit: James Hita

Mr Hita said the delay meant he and his partner would miss a $400 pre-booked meal at the Orbit restaurant at Auckland’s Sky Tower.

His partner was also out of pocket because they had driven from another New Zealand city to Auckland to collect him and would now have to find overnight accommodation.

“In hindsight, it is disappointing and upsetting but at the same time it is just one of those things,” Mr Hita said.

It is unknown how many passengers were on board, however, Mr HIta said it was a full flight of about 200 people.

A Qantas spokesperson said: “One of our flights bound for Auckland returned to Sydney this morning following a bird strike shortly after take-off,” the spokesperson said.

“We will re-accommodate customers as soon as possible.

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding and apologise for the inconvenience.”

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