Hopefully there were at least some Avgeeks on board who appreciated the extra flying given how limited those options are in New Zealand these days.
Air New Zealand 787 returns to Auckland
On Friday, March 19, 2021, Air New Zealand’s Flight 75 was scheduled to operate from Auckland, New Zealand to Seoul Incheon (South Korea) with 55 passengers on board. A Boeing 787-9 with the registration code ZK-NZI was used for the service, which is just over four years old.
The Aviation Herald reports what happened to that flight – it took off from Auckland on schedule, although a problem occurred about halfway through the flight. About 5 hours and 20 minutes after the flight began, the crew made the decision to turn around at 40,000 feet and over the Pacific near Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
The reason? Apparently two of the three computers used for navigation had problems. With only one computer left, they made the decision to return.
The return flight took approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes, making the plane more than 11 hours in the air. This is roughly the same time it normally takes for the flight to reach its destination.
Air New Zealand quickly got a replacement aircraft for passengers. The airline eventually flew the 787-9 to Seoul Incheon with the registration code ZK-NZK, and passengers were about 34 hours late.
Completely coincidental, but the flight from Auckland to Seoul Incheon was only operated once a month and yet the plane only had 55 people on board. I would imagine freight is the main motivator for the service as not many people currently want to leave New Zealand.
Why should the plane turn around?
Some may find it strange that the plane spun about halfway through. After all, if you have a navigation problem and make a decision not to divert to a nearby airport, is it “safer” to turn around? I would imagine that there are a couple of things at play here:
- When there is a major problem that needs to be fixed, it is much easier to do on your hub and maintenance base than on an outstation
- I doubt this was a cost based decision as an 11 hour flight to nowhere isn’t cheap
- I would imagine there have been discussions about rerouting, but the logistics for doing this are incredibly complicated in the coronavirus era given the testing and access requirements
- It appears that the aircraft navigation problem was fairly easily fixed as the aircraft returned to service within a day and flew to Los Angeles, Perth and Tokyo
An Air New Zealand Boeing 787 flying from Auckland to Seoul flew 11 hours into nowhere after turning halfway due to navigation problems.
This is one of the longer flights to nowhere we’ve heard of in a while. In the end, it seems the problem was easily fixed given how quickly the plane got back into service.