OZJet denies plane fault endangered passengers


(eTN) – Airline OZJet has denied its passengers were in great danger when they were told to don lifejackets and prepare for a possible crash-landing in the ocean after a wing malfunction over Norfolk Island.

The Brisbane to Norfolk Island Boeing 737 flight made two approaches to land at Norfolk Island on Saturday before abandoning the attempt in bad weather and diverting to Noumea.

Passengers said they were told to don their life jackets and prepare for a crash ocean landing.

Travellers spoke of fearing for their lives minutes after the aircraft, carrying about 100 passengers, was forced to abort its landing at Norfolk Island.

OZjet told the ABC today that the plane was unable to land because of bad weather and then a flap on the plane’s right wing did not retract correctly, causing a vibration in the aircraft.

Passengers were prepared for a possible emergency landing, but the flight landed safely in Noumea, where it had been diverted, Ozjet spokesman Tony Healey told the ABC.

“It was not of great danger to anybody at the time,” he said.

“Once they were able to identify what it was, they got to a height where they could see exactly what the problem was and follow the procedures which were in place to ensure that there was a safe arrival.”

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is examining the incident.

Bill and Wendy Petersen, of Birkdale in Queensland’s Redlands Shire, said the plane started shuddering violently after its right wingflap bent. “We thought we were gone, everybody on the plane,” Mr Petersen said.

“It was rocking all around the place. What can you do? You can’t get off it. You just have to see it out, whatever the outcome. It’s no good screaming. You think about your kids at home and everything.

“It was a serious, serious situation that could have finished up with all of us dead .”

The passengers spent a night in Noumea and returned to Brisbane on Sunday on another Ozjet plane.

The ATSB today confirmed it was investigating the apparent failure of an outboard slat of a plane.

“On the climb out there was a severe vibration and it appears that the right outboard slat appeared to be broken or there were some problems with it so the flight continued on to Noumea,” a spokeswoman said.

“After the second attempt to land they were climbing back up again and this vibration occurred … in the right wing,” she said.

“As a normal precautionary procedure I believe that the passengers were briefed on a possible ditching and were also asked to don lifejackets.”

The black box recorder will be examined by Australian ATSB investigators.