The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched an investigation into an incident where the crew of a Pacific Blue Boeing 737-800 elected to takeoff from Queenstown at a time when it was not permitted to due to the airport’s stringent operating criteria.
The aircraft was operating a flight from Queenstown to Sydney with 140 passengers and crew on board on June 22, and took off later than it was permitted under visual flight rules at the airport, which is surrounded by mountainous terrain. The flight had been scheduled to leave at 1630, but departed at 1725, 20 minutes past the cutoff time for the flight to depart. Witnesses reported that the aircraft then flew dangerously low to avoid fog and an incoming front.
According to media reports, Pacific Blue has suspended the captain of the flight and is conducting its own investigation as well as aiding the CAA’s investigation.