By ANN-MARIE MAY
PASSENGERS aboard Monday night's Qantas flight QF2118 thought the electrical storm was the worst of their worries ? that was until the runway lights went dark.
A passenger on the flight, who wished to be unnamed, told the Coffs Coast Advocate yesterday that she was terrified of crashing as the plane approached the runway then had to veer up again as the runway lights switched off.
"The passengers were all extremely scared. It was a pretty scary flight to begin with because of the storm and then that happened," the passenger said.
"It was very bumpy and rough, so we were all pleased to be landing so we could get off the plane and home out of the storm.
"We were circling the airport for a while and then when we went to land the runway lights went off. We were all relly scared. People were leaning forward in the safety position and hoping we wouldn't crash.
"When we finally landed everyone cheered and clapped."
Coffs Harbour's airport manager Bevan Edwards said after carrying out system checks, he was confident the Coffs Harbour airport wasn't at fault.
"We use a system called the Pilot Activated Lighting (PAL), a technical system which allows aircraft pilots to control the lighting of an airport runway via radio," Mr Edwards said.
"When the lights are out at night time and the tower is closed, pilots can turn the runway lights on, which then stay on for half an hour.
"To my understanding the lights turned off after that initial half hour."
Mr Edwards said when alerted to the incident on Monday night a safety officer carried out a check on the system, which was found to be functional.
He also said that it was normally not affected in storms, but as it was a mechanical device it was prone to some problems, but this was not the case on Monday night.
When the lighting system is activated, a half-hour countdown starts, after which, the lights turn off.
Exectuive general manager regional airlines QantasLink, Narendra Kumar, said due to storm activity the flight had to hold for the weather to improve.
"As the aircraft made its approach to land the runway lights extinguished. The lights were reactivated by flight crew and on the second approach a safe landing was made," Mr Kumar said.