Thoughts on the incident above Blenheim

08 February 2008 » Butterfly effect, Opinion, Travel, Ubuntu

I was shocked this morning to hear about the near-hijacking of a short domestic flight in New Zealand on the BBC (More coverage from the NZ Herald and CNN).

Catherine and I flew to Auckland from the same airport in Blenheim less than 2 months ago as we returned north from the wine country at the end of our honeymoon.

We enjoyed many great experiences in New Zealand, but we regard our time in the Marlborough region as the most pleasurable part of our trip (my wife sure liked the wines, mussels and farmer’s market. I particularly dug the beer).

I hadn’t told Cat about how small this particular airport is, nor did I realize how petite the actual plane would be. Those particular details were best left for the time we actually got there – why ruin such a nice weekend?

I can’t say I wasn’t worried about how much the plane could carry though… I shipped home some 50 pounds of laundry and souvenirs the day before we planned to leave.

The rental car return amounted to leaving the car anywhere in the small lot and dropping off the keys at an unattended kiosk. I suppose this really isn’t a problem if you can hear the horn sounded by the panic button at the far end of the tarmac.

Taking off, the plane generates a surprising amount of thrust for two propellers. Cat shut her eyes, clenched her teeth, and swore to exact her revenge on me for most of the 2 hour flight, but I really enjoyed it. For the most part…

We came down into the remnants of a tropical “anti-cyclone” when approaching Auckland. I really didn’t need to see how unstable our approach was looking through the front window even from the back of the plane, but the landing was remarkably smooth.

The crew from Eagle Air who operated the flight for Air New Zealand were both excellent pilots and great hosts. It’s a credit to the company to hear how well they handled the trouble in the sky yesterday.

New Zealand is a beautiful country well served by its domestic network of short flights. The Marlborough region in particular would have been out of reach for us if we had to take another ferry ride and drive hundreds of kilometers back up the North Island.

It’s disheartening that this type of incident took place, not least for the unfortunate folks whose lives were put in jeopardy.