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By GUY WILLIAMS

A small jet flew from Sydney to Queenstown on Tuesday, picked up a passenger and flew back to the Australian city.

The Embraer Phenom 300 landed just after midday with an Australian pilot onboard, picked
up the passenger — whose identify and nationality are unknown — then took off again, all in the space of about 30 minutes.

Although Queenstowners may be surprised to learn international repatriation flights are landing at their airport, it would seem there’s no skulduggery involved.

Queenstown Airport says it was the fifth such flight — all carrying people out of New Zealand — since the borders closed.

Three occurred soon after the imposition of last March’s Level 4 lockdown.

The airport confirms no direct repat flights carrying Kiwis home from abroad have landed in the resort.

Queenstown Corporate Jet Services (QCJS) manager Vickie Hill says ‘‘client and business confidentiality’’ means she can’t reveal the identity or nationality of the passenger.

‘‘From time to time, during the current climate, we get requests for people to return to  locations outside NZ.’’

A special application had to be made for the flight, but no one officially entered the country as the airport’s tarmac is considered international airspace, Hill says.

The airport’s safety and operations general manager, Mike Clay, says the pilot, passenger and ground staff were all wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and maintained at least four metres’ distance from each other.

The airport worked with border agencies, the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) and QCJS to ensure Covid-19 health and safety protocols were followed, Clay says.

SDHB regulatory and protection team leader Susan Moore tells Mountain Scene its role was to check appropriate procedures for disembarking, physical distancing and PPE were followed, and is satisfied that was the case.

The pilot got out of the plane for a pre-flight inspection and refuel ling of the aircraft, but had no physical interaction with anyone before getting back on board, Moore says.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz