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Air New Zealand 787 returns to Auckland
On Friday, March 19, 2021, Air New Zealand flight 75 was supposed to operate from Auckland, New Zealand, to Seoul Incheon, South Korea, with 55 passengers onboard. A Boeing 787-9 with the registration code ZK-NZI was being used for the service, which was just over four years old.
The Aviation Herald reports on what happened with this flight — it took off from Auckland as scheduled, though about halfway through the flight there was a problem. About 5hr20min into the flight, while at 40,000 feet and over the Pacific Ocean near Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, the crew made the decision to turn around.
The reason? Apparently two of the three computers used for navigation were experiencing issues, so with just one computer remaining, they made the decision to return.
The return portion of the flight took around 5hr45min, so altogether the plane spent over 11hr in the air. That’s roughly the same amount of time that the flight would usually take to reach its destination.
Air New Zealand quickly got a replacement aircraft for passengers. The airline ended up flying the 787-9 with the registration code ZK-NZK to Seoul Incheon, and passengers arrived around 34 hours late.
Totally random, but the Auckland to Seoul Incheon flight has been operating just once per month, and despite that the plane had only 55 people onboard. I’d imagine cargo is the primary motivator for the service, since not many people are looking to leave New Zealand right now.
Why would the plane turn around?
Some might find it strange that the plane turned around at roughly the halfway point. After all, if you’re having a navigation issue and you make the decision to not divert to a nearby airport, is it any “safer” to turn around? I would imagine a few things were at play here:
- If there were to be a major issue that needs to be fixed, it’s much easier to do that at your hub and maintenance base, rather than at an outstation
- I doubt this was a decision based on cost, since operating an 11 hour flight to nowhere isn’t cheap
- I would imagine there were discussions about diverting, but the logistics of that are incredibly complicated in the coronavirus era, given testing and entry requirements
- It seems that the navigation issue with the plane was fixed pretty easily, because the plane reentered service within a day, and has flown to Los Angeles, Perth, and Tokyo
An Air New Zealand Boeing 787 flying from Auckland to Seoul operated an 11 hour flight to nowhere, after turning around at the halfway point due to navigation issues.
This is one of the longer flights to nowhere we’ve heard about in a while. In the end it seems like the issue may have easily been fixed, given how quickly the plane reentered service.