Jet stranded on soft runway in Manihiki

Thursday 10 June 2021 | Written by Al Williams | Published in National, Outer Islands

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Jet stranded on soft runway in Manihiki
A CI News file photo of Air Rarotonga's Cessna Citation II jet at Manihiki's airport. 20052254

An Air Rarotonga aircraft was left stranded on Manihiki early this week when its nose wheel dug into a soft spot on the island’s unsealed runway.

Air Rarotonga managing director Ewan Smith said the incident happened as the Cessna Citation II jet was taxiing for departure to Pukapuka.

A charter group was delayed by a day as a result, leaving the airline with a $20,000 bill, Smith said.

“We flew another aircraft and an engineer on Tuesday morning to Manihiki to change the wheel as a precaution, the island council attended to compacting the soft spot.”

The bill included the cost to fly another aircraft to the island, combined with the nose wheel removal, he confirmed.

The Cessna Citation II jet continued its charter to Pukapuka on Tuesday following repairs.

The incident had not affected other airline schedules, Smith said.

There had been a similar incident about 18 months ago, he said. 

“Adequate compaction of the coral runways and manoeuvring areas at some of our Pa Enua airstrip are an ongoing challenge.

“The problem usually occurs while turning and manoeuvring, and not during take-off or landing.” 

Smith said planning is underway by Infrastructure Cook Islands for the upgrading of Pa Enua runways over the next several years.

This week, Prime Minister Mark Brown said funds have been allocated in the 2021/22 budget for tar sealing of Manihiki’s runway.

“We are hopeful the Manihiki runway will be sealed in the next year followed by Penrhyn,” said Smith.

“The coral airstrips have served the Pa Enua very well for decades, however, they do cause additional wear and tear on aircraft compared to a paved runway, which comes at a cost.

“It is a cost issue rather than a safety one, paving of runways will also allow us to operate our Saab 340s to the Northern Group which will substantially reduce air fares.”

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