Engine fire forces Virgin Australia flight to make emergency landing

The Virgin Australia check-in area at Sydney Domestic Airport, in Sydney, Australia, on August 5, 2020. The carrier said one of its planes made an emergency landing in New Zealand on Monday. File Photo by Dan Himbrechts/EPA-EFE

June 17 (UPI) -- A Virgin Australia flight experiencing engine problems managed to safely make an emergency landing in New Zealand on Monday.

The Boeing 737 passenger aircraft left Queenstown Airport on Monday afternoon bound for Melbourne when one of its engines caught fire.

Officials said they believe the plane struck a bird on takeoff.

Virgin Australia said 73 passengers were onboard, including 67 passengers and six crew members.

The plane was able to land without incident at Invercargill Airport in southern New Zealand, about 124 miles away.

"Virgin Australia Flight VA148 from Queenstown to Melbourne diverted to Invercargill Airport and landed safely following a possible bird strike on takeoff this evening," Stuard Aggs, chief operations officer of Virgin Australia, said, according to News.com.

"The aircraft has been met by emergency services at Invercargill Airport. The safety of our guests and crew is our highest priority."

Aggs said there were no reported injuries and arrangements were being made to get the passengers to their final destinations.

"We wish to express our appreciation for the support of Invercargill Airport, Emergency Services, local Air New Zealand team members and our crew onboard in helping to support tonight's response effort."