New Zealand safety authorities have completed an exhaustive inquiry into how a giant eagle weighing a tonne came to crash-land at Wellington Airport terminal and slam down into the food court.
The giant one-tonne eagle, a sculpture related to The Hobbit, plummeted into the food court from the ceiling in a 2014 earthquake, despite having been “rigorously engineered” to remain safely hanging from the ceiling in such an event.
When a 6.2 magnitude quake hit the lower North Island in January last year, however, down came the eagle. Fortunately, no-one was hurt. See: Eagle has landed in earthquake at Wellington Airport
Another eagle alongside it didn’t fall. Weighing in at one tonne each, with a wingspan of 15 metres, the eagles were developed by Weta Workshop and Wellington Airport to accompany Gollum in welcoming visitors to the Wellington region and New Zealand.
At the launch of the installation, Sir Richard Taylor, Creative Director of Weta Workshop said “we were thrilled to create another installation for Wellington Airport.
“What could be more suitable for an airport in Middle-earth than Gandalf atop a Great Eagle swooping into the terminal. It was such an evocative image from The Hobbit and a fantastic and challenging project for our artists to design and build.”
In the quake, one eagle snapped its cables and plunged onto a noodle canteen below.
The investigators’ report, obtained by Fairfax in New Zealand under that country’s Official Information Act, shows that after “experimental reconstruction” of the eagle’s suspension, investigators found that wire loads had been calculated “significantly in error” and four of the nine suspension wires were below safety standards. A complaint has been laid against an engineer.
Here’s the surprise: because the one-tonne eagle was an “artwork” it did not need building approval.
Giant suspended sculptures still grace the terminal but authorities say they have been re-engineered and are now quite safe. Still, a few people might prefer not to eat their noodles directly under them.
Written by Peter Needham