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Plane strikes bird, returns safely to RDU

Posted September 2, 2013

A Southwest Airlines flight that took off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport Monday afternoon returned within about 30 minutes after striking a bird, airport officials said.

“You just hear like – wha womp, wha womp," said passenger Shelly Tranchita. "It was like a pinwheel, and you heard it hitting things.

"We saw some smoke and it is very, very scary. Nobody was saying anything. Nobody knew what was going on.”

Shelly Tranchita Moments of fright precede safe landing

George Shackleton III was sitting near the engine. "I saw the flashes out the window, and people were saying, 'Oh my gosh, it is on fire. It is on fire,'” he said.

Flight 220 was destined for Chicago and took off just before 6 p.m. With one engine damaged and shut down, the flight returned to RDU.

Eventually, the pilot came on the speaker to explain.

Tranchita made fast friends with her seatmate. "I was grabbing the gentleman next to me," she said.

Passengers prepared for the landing with coaching from the crew. 

"Everyone was calm. People were in tears, people were scared, babies were crying – but we had to pray to God for a safe landing," Tranchita said.

And that is what they got. None of the 124 passengers and 5 crew members were injured. 

"Then we clapped. Everyone clapped. It was an uproar. It was a beautiful thing. We landed and were safe and it was a huge relief," she said.

Shackleton called it "a roar of applause."

"I high-fived the guy next to me over his crying girlfriend," he said.

Southwest brought in another plane to give Chicago-bound travelers the option to leave later Monday evening.



28 Comments

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  • Cock a doodle doo Sep 3, 2013

    That plane could have flown with only one engine. Made it back to RDU easily. It could take off with only one engine also. Passengers and crew were never in any real danger.Mostly hooplah.

    Absolutely. The plane is designed to fly with one engine and pilots are trained to do it.

    But if you were looking out the window to see the flames shooting from the engine, hearing louds booms, and feel the plane vibrating a lot; can you seriously say you wouldn't be concerned in the least? I'm sure you'd probably be the one sharing the hooplah of it on here after experiencing it.

  • tobywilliamson1973 Sep 3, 2013

    That plane could have flown with only one engine. Made it back to RDU easily. It could take off with only one engine also. Passengers and crew were never in any real danger.Mostly hooplah.

  • Made In USA Sep 3, 2013

    It's a wonder this doesn't happen more than it does. I've sat out at the RDU Observation Tower (great place to eat lunch) and have seen lots and lots of birds flying near the runway as planes arrived and departed.

  • Offshore Sep 3, 2013

    Glad the humans landed safely, it's an unfortunate side-effect of progress. You'll have to learn to accept the fact that bird fatalities occur, same with deer, snakes and turtles who cross the road. Turtles, amazingly enough, have caused delays:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-20075461.html

  • Toddler10-21 Sep 3, 2013

    The pilot saved dozens of lives, and some on here are worried about a bird. Guess the bird will look both ways next time. Guess the coyotes that get shot for being on the runways are wrong also?

  • Cock a doodle doo Sep 3, 2013

    Ditto to what djofraleigh said. That was brilliant editing by Adam Owens. I loved the way the report went back and forth.

  • Fx432 Sep 3, 2013

    "Returning after 30 minutes into the flight makes me wonder what was the plane's altitude when it hit the bird?"

    Overweight to land due to fuel load. Had to burn fuel to get to a safe landing weight. They can takeoff, fly and land all day on one engine. The noise, fire and shaking were from the newly destroyed compressor.

  • Skywatch_NC Sep 3, 2013

    We should ban air travel to save the sweet little birdies.

    We should ban train travel to save the forestry e.g. railroad ties.

  • sheep Sep 3, 2013

    Bye, bye, Birdie.

  • Get your IDs Sep 3, 2013

    We should ban air travel to save the sweet little birdies.

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