Mystery of random Air New Zealand flight over East Cape solved

It's was travelling a route not normally taken by large commercial aircraft.
It's was travelling a route not normally taken by large commercial aircraft. Photo credit: Getty Images

People looking to the sky from the ground, and online were puzzled by the presence of a large passenger airliner over the East Cape and Gisborne on Wednesday evening.

Newshub was contacted by a number of residents who noticed the aircraft just before 6pm. 

People who frequent flight-tracker apps were also posting on social media about the aircraft, asking why it was flying in an area that is usually only serviced by small regional aircraft.

It turns out the aircraft wasn't on a secret COVID-19 related mission, but was instead simply being checked over by engineers before being returned to its owners.

The Boeing 777-300 will be returned to its owners on Friday.
The Boeing 777-300 will be returned to its owners on Friday.

The Boeing 777-300 has been leased by Air New Zealand for the last three years to prop-up the airline's fleet as it dealt with the Dreamliner Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine crisis, which forced some of its aircraft into maintenance and out of service for some time.

"This aircraft has undergone maintenance and is completing what's known as a proving flight before it returns to service. This is in line with normal processes," a spokesperson for Air New Zealand said.

The aircraft can carry more than 300 passengers, so in current conditions is surplus to Air New Zealand's requirements. It is due to be returned to its owners EVA Air in Taiwan in the early hours of Friday morning.

However it's just as likely to remain parked on the ground there as it is here. Taiwan has closed its borders to tourists and people in transit, and EVA Air has also had to slash the number of flights it operates in the wake of COVID-19.

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