Thrill-Seekers Around Rarotonga Airport Warned About Dangers Of Jet Blast

Injuries increased after Tourism Corporation promo video highlighted activity

By Shae Osborne 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 18, 2017) – It’s a daily sight on Rarotonga: Crowds of people lined up on the seawall footpath, gazing expectantly into the distance for the first glimpse of an approaching airliner.

An equally common sight at the inland end of the runway is that of thrill-seeking visitors clinging for dear life to the security fence as a large jet takes off and the blast from two powerful jet engines threatens to blow them into the taro patch behind them.

For visitors to Rarotonga. jet blast experience is a well-known free “attraction”.

At the seawall end, the practice is relatively harmless as the pavement is below the runway, well out of the way of the jet blast and the thrill comes from watching a jet pass overhead at what seems like only a couple of hundred feet.

But at the inland end, it’s a different story. What many visitors fail to comprehend, despite the bold red warning signs, is that standing in the path of a jet blast as an airliner accelerates to take off can be highly dangerous.

The most common results of braving the blast are simply a lost hat or knotted hair. But some spectators have also suffered broken bones, deep gashes and concussions after being blown off their feet.

Following the release of a Tourism Corporation marketing video in 2015 which highlighted the thrills of holding on to the fence during a jet blast, there was a spike in injuries sustained by spectators at the inland end of the runway.

For a while, Airport Authority officers became extra vigilant about deterring people from standing by the fence during aircraft departures.

These days, however, security staff are rarely in evidence.

“We did at one-point send staff out, prior to departures, in order to get people away from the surrounding areas. But that has stopped now,” said Airport Authority acting chief executive officer, Tony Wearing.

“Obviously if the issues surrounding jet blast causing injuries became a problem again we would resume this course of action and look at other methods.

Wearing said there were limits to the Airport Authority’s ability to take action against people wanting to experience the jet blast.

He said deploying staff to the surrounding areas for every departure, especially with the number of flights to and from Rarotonga increasing, was no easy task.

If tourists failed to take note of the warning signs, Wearing said he could only hope they were smart enough to think about the possible consequences.

“We can only hope that common sense will prevail.”

Cook Islands News
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