A LISMORE man on a REX flight from Sydney to Ballina yesterday was forced to endure a four hour flight from hell when fellow passengers were struck down with bouts of vomiting during two aborted landing attempts at Ballina, as 50knot winds buffeted the plane.
Harry Freeman, who works at Lismore Base Hospital, boarded the plane at 8.45am yesterday morning in Sydney expecting a routine 90-minute flight (including a short stop in Newcastle).
Four hours later he was back in Sydney, having a tale to tell but no closer to home.
"It's been a long, long flight," Mr Freeman said.
According to Mr Freeman, the Rex twin engine SAAB 340, which seats around 30, was overcome with vomiting passengers during the attempted landings.
"Half the plane was vomiting - they really were - there was a lot of vomiting people - I had to pass my (sick) bags to someone else," he recalled.
"The poor lady behind me ran out of bags... there was this desperate tapping on the back of my seat for me to pass my bags back."
"The retching sound was quite loud," he said.
Mr Freeman said he believed it was the unappetizing combination of fear and bumpiness that caused the sickly onset.
"Both times (attempted landings) they said they didn't have a clear enough view of the landing field… there was also a lot of wind really bumping the plane around."
Undeterred, he was looking to book another flight, this time to Lismore.
"I'm going to have another crack to see if we can land at Lismore... at this stage the Lismore flights are leaving."
Flights to and from Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport were being cancelled on a "case by case" basis yesterday.
When weather makes Ballina Airport inaccessible to commercial aircraft, flights are often forwarded on to Coolangatta or Brisbane.
However, conditions were particularly unsafe at those ports yesterday and many flights were sent back to their ports of origin.
"The issue with Coolangatta Airport is the cross winds. We're having gusts of up to 40 knots and that's beyond the safe operating limits for our aircraft," a Virgin Australia spokesman said.