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FAA: Bird strike was cause of RDU flight's emergency landing

Posted August 10, 2009
Updated August 15, 2009

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— The Federal Aviation Administration says a bird strike started an engine fire that forced a Northwest Airlines Airbus A320 to make an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham International Airport Sunday morning.

Airline officials said 153 people were on board Flight 1546, which left RDU for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Passengers reported hearing a loud boom just after take off, then seeing a huge flame from the engine. Within 20 minutes of take-off, the pilot turned the plane around and landed safely. There were no injuries.

Bird strike did cause emergency landing Bird strike did cause emergency landing

"The initial investigation revealed that the engine on the right side of the aircraft ingested a large bird and was seriously damaged," FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said Monday. "The aircraft will remain at RDU until the engine is replaced."

The engine will undergo a more detailed examination after it's removed from the aircraft, Bergen said.

Sunday's strike marks the fourth reported at RDU this year. Two other strikes caused no damage and one caused minimal damage. According to the FAA, there were six significant strikes at RDU from 1990 to 2007.

RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said the airport uses several proactive strategies to help keep animals away from aircraft.

That includes regular grounds keeping, making the area unattractive to wildlife and loud pyrotechnics to scare off birds spotted any time of day.

Hamlin said there is also constant communication among pilots, air traffic control and ground crews.

"So, if the air traffic control tower sees there are birds in the vicinity of the airport and the airfield, they will let us know, and we can go out an disperse them," she said. "The pilots, if they see birds near them or around the airfield, they will let the air traffic control tower know as well."

The FAA will also look at the airport's mitigation plan to see if there should be any changes to how it handles animals near aircraft, Hamlin said. The plan is already subject to an annual FAA review.

Bird-aircraft collisions are not unusual, but they are being more scrutinized since Charlotte-bound US Airways Flight 1549 ditched into the Hudson River in January after striking a flock of Canada geese after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Both engines on that aircraft were knocked out and all 155 people aboard survived after the plane's pilot, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, safely guided landed it into the Hudson River.

That incident led the FAA to release of its bird strike database. The report revealed that airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major U.S. airports since 2000.

A team of researchers at North Carolina State University has also studied flying-bird strikes for more than a year in an effort to figure out the best way to manage the situation.

"We want to know how often they cross runways, what time of day they do this," said Liz Rutledge, a PhD student at N.C. State. "(We're seeing) the geese stay within 3 to 5 miles of the airport, so we think its critical to look at these areas."

Rutledge said findings suggest airports could reduce the bird strike risk by moving retention ponds.

RDU is considering putting screens over its ponds to keep birds away.

9 Comments

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  • Six String Aug 10, 2009

    Skip turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas, have a wild goose instead.

  • See Chart Aug 10, 2009

    "Disperse the birds "ain't dat watt a shotgun is 4?

  • rand321 Aug 10, 2009

    There are lots of hawks or other birds of prey that roost along lumley road near the run ways. they are pretty big.

  • nuncvendetta Aug 10, 2009

    Funny how birds only seem to fly into Airbus aircraft.

    This just reinforces the notion that my close commercial pilot friends confide with me - "If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going"

  • oldfirehorse Aug 10, 2009

    "Passengers reported hearing a loud boom just after take off, then seeing a huge flame from the engine. Within 20 minutes, the pilot turned the plane around and landed safely. There were no injuries."

    It only took twenty minutes for the pilot to figure out that a loud boom and a huge flame coming from his engine was not normal?

  • Steve Crisp Aug 10, 2009

    The loud bang was the bird being sucked into the air intake. The flames were of said bird, massively tenderized, basted in aviation fuel, and charred to a cinder.

    Dinner will be served at 8....

  • voip Aug 10, 2009

    How 'bout a scare crow?

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Aug 10, 2009

    Bet that bird learned it's lesson.

  • timothycapwell Aug 10, 2009

    I betcha that bird won't do that again!