Passengers on board a domestic flight from Kaitaia to Auckland were "bloody scared" when the aircraft's door opened mid-flight while flying through rough weather.
Passenger James Snowden told ONE News six people and a pilot boarded the Barrier Air Piper Chieftain plane in Kaitaia about 4.30pm yesterday before it left for Auckland with a scheduled stop in Whangarei.
"When we jumped on the ground, crew in Kaitaia had trouble closing the door. I could see a slightly concerned look on his face, but [he] shut it anyway and had no problems even though it was a bit bumpy to Whangarei," he said.
A view from inside the plane's cabin.
After landing in Whangarei he said the pilot informed the remaining four passengers he had no ground crew and needed to close the door from Mr Snowden's seat at the back of the plane.
"I asked, 'are you sure that door is shut?' Due to my earlier concerns in Kaitaia. He said, 'no problem'."
A view of the suspected faulty aircraft door during the flight.
"We left Whangarei without a hitch, apart from it was very bumpy," Mr Snowden added, before the flight ran into trouble near Auckland.
"We must have been over Whangaparaoa when a whole lot of air started coming from the door and it got very loud, I said 'oi' to the pilot as it got louder, he said 'it was to release pressure', but it was an unpressurised plane."
A view of the door during the flight picturing the red door handle.
Mr Snowden said the aircraft circled over Auckland Airport for what felt like "three times".
"The pilot asked how the door looked, we said 'okay', but [we] don't know what it's supposed to look like."
It was bloody scary"
Passenger James Snowden
After landing safely in Auckland, Mr Snowden said the pilot opened the door but before doing so "noticed the red handle [was] up which he had previously put down".
He said the pilot was then seen on his haunches by the wing of the plane "breathing very deeply".
The Barrier Air aircraft on the tarmac.
Mr Snowden added the pilot had earlier mentioned the plane's door had recently been repaired.
"There was nothing more mentioned, no explanation or apology. After having time to think, if that door had opened fully it would have torn the tail off with me in it!
"It was bloody scary."
Another passenger on board the flight confirmed to ONE News the door had opened mid-air.
"Not fully but enough to cause concern," he said.
"I would also say the pilot did a great job and the weather was fairly rough."
Barrier Air's May 24, 2016 flight log.
Barrier Air has declined to comment when approached by ONE News, while the Civil Aviation Authority said such incidents are required to be reported within two weeks.
The seven to eight seater Piper Chieftain aircraft is described on the Barrier Air website as the fastest plane it operates, is "quick and comfortable", and "perfect for Barrier Air's Kaitaia-Auckland service".
Barrier Air took over flying to Kaitaia from Air New Zealand on April 28, 2015.