(NATIONAL) — It’s one of those things in the back of many an air traveler’s mind; the prospect of a bird strike – a direct hit into one or more engines on your jetliner by a flock of birds – causing your aircraft to be in serious trouble in a heartbeat.
That is what happened to Delta Flight 1063 Thursday afternoon. The Boeing 757, originally bound for Los Angeles, was forced to make an emergency landing back at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after its right engine experienced a bird strike shortly after takeoff and the cabin began filling with smoke.
“We lost our right engine due to the ingestion of birds,” the pilot told the control tower.
But the calm, cool voiced pilot – the audio recording of the pilot’s communication with air traffic controllers on the ground revealed he could not have been calmer and in more control of the situation – brought the plane back to JFK for a safe emergency landing and there were no injuries.
“All is well,” the pilot calmly told the controllers who were coordinating the landing and response teams on the ground. “They can take their time and everybody can be calm out there,” he added.
Watch the video below taken aboard the 757 as it was taking off. It was shot by sales trainer Grant Cardone who was sitting in the first class section of the plane. You’ll see the flock of birds go right by the window he was shooting out of. A fraction of a second later they were inside the jet’s engine.
Below is a short video Cardone took of himself for his website as he was walking off the plane and talking about how terrifying the ordeal was.
Ali Velshi, a business reporter for CNN was also on that plane, he said he heard a “horrible grinding noise” after the plane took off. After the strike the jet started shaking, and smoke could be seen in the cockpit area, Velshi said. Delta released a statement saying, “On takeoff, the airplane had a likely bird strike. As a precaution, the captain elected to return to JFK. The flight landed without incident, and we’re working on reaccomodating the passengers.” Jet engines are designed and then tested to make sure they can handle a direct hit from small birds – larger birds is another matter entirely – but sometimes even small birds, as in the case of the now famous “Miracle on the Hudson” flight in New York, a flock of large birds can bring down a huge aircraft. In that flight the pilot made an almost miraculous, virtually perfect landing on the water and the passengers were safely evacuated. At present the largest bird an engine has to be designed and demonstrated to take in is a four-pound animal. According to a wildlife specialist at the Air Line Pilots Association, no jet engines today are built to survive a strike from a bird weighing eight pounds or more. A government study of bird strikes from 1990 (1,793 strikes) to 2010 (9,622 strikes) shows 70% of the strikes happen when an aircraft was traveling at less than 500 feet elevation. The website birdstrike.org estimates birds and other wildlife strikes to aircraft annually cause well over $600 million in damage to U.S. civil and military aviation and furthermore those strikes put the lives of aircraft crew members and their passengers at risk: over 219 people have been killed worldwide as a result of wildlife strikes since 1988. Bird Strike Facts: About 4,500 bird strikes were reported by the U.S. Air Force in 2011. About 10,000 bird and other wildlife strikes were reported for USA civil aircraft in 2011. From 1990-2011, USA airlines reported 46 incidents in which pilots had to dump fuel to lighten load during a precautionary or emergency landing after striking birds on takeoff or climb. An average of 13,700 gallons of jet fuel was released in each of these dumps. Waterfowl (31%), gulls (25%), raptors (18%), and pigeons/doves (7%) represented 81% of the reported bird strikes causing damage to USA civil aircraft, 1990-2010. Over 990 civil aircraft collisions with deer and 340 collisions with coyotes were reported in the USA, 1990-2010. In 1890, about 60 European starlings were released in Central Park, New York City. Starlings are now the second most abundant bird in North America with a late-summer population of over 150 million birds. Starlings are “feathered bullets”, having a body density 27% higher than herring gulls. The North American non-migratory Canada goose population increased about 4 fold from 1 million birds in 1990 to over 3.5 million in 2011. About 1,350 Canada geese strikes with civil aircraft have been reported in USA, 1990-2011; 42% of these strike events involved multiple birds. A 12-lb Canada goose struck by a150-mph aircraft at lift-off generates the kinetic energy of a 1,000-lb weight dropped from a height of 10 feet. The North American population of greater snow geese increased from about 90,000 birds in 1970 to over 800,000 birds in 2010. Several species of gulls have adapted to urban environments. At least 15,000 gulls were counted nesting on roofs in USA cities on the Great Lakes during a survey in 1994. About 90% of all bird strikes in the U.S. are by species federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.