Australian passenger plane lands safely in New Zealand after a fire shuts down an engine

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP): A passenger plane landed safely at a New Zealand airport on Monday after a fire shut down one of its engines, the nation’s fire service said.

The Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 jet bound for Melbourne, Australia, with 67 passengers and six crew members on board landed in the New Zealand city of Invercargill after the fire forced a diversion. The incident may have resulted from "a possible bird strike,” the airline's chief operations officer, Stuart Aggs, said in an emailed statement.

Flames were seen shortly after the plane took off from Queenstown Airport. No further information about what happened at the time of the incident was known, said Catherine Nind, an airport spokesperson.

"At this time, we are not aware of any physical injuries to guests or crew,” Aggs said. Passengers will be accommodated in Invercargill overnight and new flights would be arranged, he said.

Queenstown, with a population of 53,000, is popular tourist destination on New Zealand's South Island, famous for skiing, adventure tourism and alpine vistas.

The rate of birds striking planes at New Zealand’s airports is about four in every 10,000 aircraft movements, the country’s aviation regulator says on its website.

The consequences vary in severity depending on where the aircraft is hit, the size of the birds and the pilot’s reaction, the Civil Aviation Authority says. - AP

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