Sunday 21 October 2018

Plane makes emergency landing after freak collision with eagle and rabbit

Bird strikes

A flock of birds near a plane taking off. Photo: Getty
A flock of birds near a plane taking off. Photo: Getty
Source: FlightRadar24
NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Rescue crews secure a US Airways flight 1549 floating in the water after it crashed into the Hudson River January 15, 2009 in New York City. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Hugh Morris

A plane was forced to make an emergency landing after it hit not just an eagle, but an eagle carrying a rabbit shortly after take off.

Virgin Australia Flight VA-319 was departing Melbourne for Brisbane when it reported “excessive vibration” in its left engine and decided to return to the airport.

The crew told air traffic controllers as it levelled off at 5,000 feet that the Boeing 737’s number one engine had struck both an eagle, and the rabbit clutched in its claws.

The plane, which was carrying up to 174 passengers, landed safely 17 minutes after departure. Tracking data from FlightRadar24.com shows how the plane’s ascent was curtailed around 4,500 feet before it performed a tight loop and returned to Melbourne.

FlightRadar24 said the flight was then cancelled. Virgin Australia has been contacted for comment.

The rare event was reported on the Aviation Herald, where one commenter joked it must have been a “hare-raising experience” for the crew.

Source: FlightRadar24
Source: FlightRadar24

Though bizarre, it is not the most peculiar animal to have struck a plane in flight.

In 1987 the New York Times reported on a mid-air collision between an Alaska Airlines aircraft and a fish.

“They found a greasy spot with some scales, but no damage,” Paul Bowers, manager of Juneau airport, told the newspaper after assessing the aircraft for damage.

According to the pilot, the impact occurred at about 400 feet as the Boeing 737 climbed out of the Alaska airport and crossed paths with a bald eagle carrying a fish in its talons.

The eagle escaped injury.

''The law of the jungle prevailed,'' Mr Bowers said. ''As the larger bird approached, the smaller bird dropped its prey.''

The fish hit a small window at the top of the cockpit, Mr Bowers said.

Bird strikes minus fish or rabbits, though still rare, are much more common.

NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Rescue crews secure a US Airways flight 1549 floating in the water after it crashed into the Hudson River January 15, 2009 in New York City. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images
NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Rescue crews secure a US Airways flight 1549 floating in the water after it crashed into the Hudson River January 15, 2009 in New York City. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

According to the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), such events are rarely dangerous – unless you are a bird, that is.

“Aircraft are designed and built to withstand bird strikes and pilots undergo rigorous training to enable them to deal with eventualities like a bird strike,” said BALPA flight safety specialist, Stephen Landells.

“In my flying career I have experienced 10 bird strikes, none of which caused any significant damage. On half the occasions, in fact, due to the small size of the birds, I was not aware that I had hit one until inspecting the aircraft after landing.”

When a bird flies or is sucked into the engine of a plane, the poor critter usually disintegrates. However, in incidents with larger birds there can be extensive damage to the engine. 

The most famous bird strike of all time?

The "Miracle on the Hudson" on January 15, 2009, saw US Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of geese before performing a water landing on the Hudson River. The story became a Hollywood blockbuster, starring Tom Hanks, in 2016.

Read more:

Bird Strikes: How dangerous can birds really be to a flight?

Telegraph.co.uk

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