Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Fri October 09 2015

Bird Strike Forces Flight to Return to Sea-Tac Airport

Impacting Travel | Patrick Clarke | October 09, 2015

Bird Strike Forces Flight to Return to Sea-Tac Airport

A Hong Kong-bound Delta Air Lines flight was forced to circle back to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Thursday following a bird strike after takeoff, the Seattle Times reported.

Airport spokesman Perry Cooper told the Times that the plane's pilot reported hitting at least one bird.

"We were taking off and there was a huge noise and I looked out and there was this big burst of flame," passenger Kaylie Anderson told KIRO. "I looked at my sister and I said 'did you see that'?"

After the pilot circled the plane to burn fuel, the flight landed safely at Sea-Tac around 4:20 p.m. local time Thursday, roughly 80 minutes after takeoff.

KIRO TV reported that passengers on the flight were informed that "a red tail hawk flew into the front landing gear panel and then went through the right engine."

Cooper said wildlife and airline inspection crews began assessing the Airbus A300 after it landed to determine the severity of the potential damage. However, Cooper told the Times that the initial inspection didn't reveal any significant damage to the plane's exterior or engine, which was still running. 

KIRO reported that bird strikes are a fairly common occurrence at Sea-Tac, with 390 occurring over a five-year period. Because of the frequency, a full-time wildlife biologist is on hand to track and sometimes trap the birds. 

In situations like Thursday's, flights must be deemed safe following inspection in order to return to the sky. Otherwise, passengers must be rebooked on future flights. 


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