Passenger video shows flames from plane engine

3 minutes read
Posted 18 June, 2024

The aircraft was a Boeing 737, similar to this one. Photo: Virgin Australia

A passenger onboard last night's stricken Queenstown-Melbourne Virgin Australia flight has posted a dramatic video of flames shooting from the engine.

The man, who runs transport-focussed YouTube channel and social media accounts Drawyah, filmed from his seat just behind the wing as the flight took off over the Shotover Delta at 6pm.

The YouTube video shows bursts of flames coming from the engine, under the right wing, after it was likely damaged when a large bird was sucked into it during take off.

"Was on my way to Melbourne for a connecting flight to London (via Kuala Lumpur), but a bird strike on departure forced us to divert instead to Invercargill. Not quite where I would like to be!," his post last night reads.

"We are safe and checked into the hotel for the night, a massive thank you to the superb crew onboard the flight for getting us down safely and with one engine."

Flight 148, a narrow-bodied Boeing 737, had 67 passengers and six crew onboard for the three-and-a-half hour flight.

"Bird strike happens just after the aircraft rotates at 0:30," he says. "After an initial panic, passengers calmed one other as we waited for info on what happened and where we were going."

After 50 minutes of flying to burn fuel and lose weight, the aircraft landed safely in Invercargill.


The video also has audio in which you can hear the calm pilot updating passengers as they approach Invercargill telling them "rest assured the aircraft is operating well, we'll have you there quite quickly and some details for your onward travel from there. Do appreciate your patience with this issue this evening."

A statement from Queenstown Airport says an airfield inspection was completed minutes before Virgin Australia flight VA148 departed and no birds were detected on the airfield at that time, and the Civil Aviation Authority records the incident rate for bird strikes at ZQN as ‘low’.

"Bird strikes are a known risk to aviation around the world and airports put considerable effort into mitigating this risk.

"The primary species of concern at Queenstown are oyster catchers and plovers, along with smaller birds such as finches, starlings, and sparrows."

The Airport Emergency Service (AES) team is responsible for ongoing wildlife hazard management at ZQN and monitors bird activity around the airport closely. Bird activity varies according to the season and migratory patterns.

"A range of measures are used to deter birds from settling on the airfield and surrounds. These include mowing grass to keep it low and less attractive to birds, spraying to reduce food sources, and use gas cannons, acoustic machines, lasers, and pyrotechnics to scare birds away.

"We also work with our neighbours to reduce the likelihood of birds settling nearby.

"Airfield inspections are conducted by ZQN staff multiple times each day. If a pilot suspects a bird strike has occurred, this is immediately reported to the Airways control tower, which in turn advises the AES team on duty, and a runway inspection is immediately carried out."


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