Pigeon strike forces emergency landing at TIA

6:17 PM, Nov 12, 2010   |    comments
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TAMPA, FLORIDA-- A plane taking off from Tampa International Airport was forced to make an emergency landing this week only minutes into the flight after hitting several birds.

It's the same thing that forced a U.S. Airways jet to land in the Hudson River last year.

This plane, a Cayman Airways jet, only made it about 1,600 feet into the air before the pilot declared the emergency and managed to land safely, only 10 minutes after departure.

Officials say a flock of pigeons got into the right engine, forcing the pilot to shut if off.

"Actually, it's very unusual for pigeons.  Typically, we don't have too many pigeon strikes," said Robert Burr, the airport's director of operations.

But hitting birds during take off or landing isn't all that unusual, according to the F.A.A.

It's happened more than 100,000 times since 1990, including just last month at TIA as a Southwest jet neared the ground.

However, forcing a plane to make an emergency landing, is much more rare.

"That's very infrequent.  I would say maybe once or twice a year," Burr said.

At Tampa International, they deal with birds, coyotes, turtles, even alligators near the runways.

Their solution is a 12-gauge shotgun.

Workers will fire shells into a flock that doesn't kill any animals, instead it's just loud enough to scare them away.

Burr points out a bird strike at TIA is less likely than many major airports.

"Tampa has been more towards the lower middle end as far as the number of strikes," he said, "and we're one of the first airports to have an approved mitigation plan."

Officials report the damage to the Cayman Airways jet has been repaired and it's now back in the air.

Adam Freeman, 10 News

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