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MP questions use of Air Force plane for PM

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/08/2016

The Boeing 757 plane lands at Whenuapai Air Force Base. © Sandra Mu/ Getty Images The Boeing 757 plane lands at Whenuapai Air Force Base. The Boeing 757 that made an emergency landing in Auckland on Monday was one of those that regularly flies Prime Minister John Key on his overseas trips, NZ First's Ron Mark says.

The Boeing landed safely after possibly blowing a tyre.

It was carrying 31 people at the time.

Mr Mark has an issue with Air Force planes being used for prime ministerial travel.

"Given we can charter commercial aircraft when required, we'd rather see military aircraft in RNZAF service, and not being mainly used to fly the prime minister around as the 757s do," he said.

"We have a perfectly decent state airline that can do that job."

Mr Mark says the 757s - the Air Force has two of them - are maintenance-heavy and fly far fewer hours than they would in commercial service.

"The Boeing 757s flew only 571 average annual flight hours between January 2013 and September 2015," he said citing information gained under the Official Information Act.

"That's only about one-fifth of what a 757 flies in commercial service."

Emergency services were called to the landing of the aircraft at Whenuapai Airbase on Monday morning.

It landed safely shortly after 10am, following several passes over the landing strip.

Air force crews were checking the aircraft for overheating with thermal imaging cameras, the Fire Service said.

The 757 experienced vibrations on take off from Whenuapai and was forced to return, a Defence Force spokesperson says.

"An investigation into the incident will be held and no further comment will be made until that is complete," she said.

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