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Jet aborts takeoff after 'fish strike' at MacDill

7:20 AM, Mar 6, 2014   |    comments
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In this Sept. 10, 2013 photo provided by MacDill Air Force Base, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pilot Lt. Cmdr Nick Toth holds up a fish in front of his Gulfstream G-IV at the base in Tampa. (Photo: MacDill Air Force Base via AP)



( - A jet departing from a Florida military base had to abort its takeoff because of a "fish strike."

Officials from the MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa tellThe Tampa Tribune a Gulfstream G-IV jet being flown by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hit "a 9-inch sheepshead" fish in the incident, which occurred in September.

Bird strikes, of course, are a significant safety concern at airports across the nation. But, as you might expect, "fish strikes" are exceedingly rare.

"We were nearing the point in the takeoff where we needed to rotate, or raise the nose of the airplane off the ground, when an osprey with something in its claws flew in front of our aircraft," Lt. Cmdr. Nick Toth, one of the NOAA pilots operating the flight,says in an online story published last month by the 6th Air Mobility Wing public affairs staff.

The story is just now being picked up by local media in the Tampa Bay area.

MacDill Air Force Base wildlife manager Lindsey Garven tells the Tribune she was called to the scene after last fall's incident to search the runway for a dead bird.

But there was no bird to be found - only a "sheepshead" fish, which the Tribunedescribes as "silvery ... with black stripes on its sides."

Base officials sent the fish and DNA from the aircraft to the Smithsonian Feather Identification Laboratory in Washington, D.C., for analysis. It concluded that the jet did in fact strike a fish.

"This was the first fish strike we have had on base," Garven says.

As for Toth, the pilot, he tells the base publication: "At first, we didn't believe the test results. There was no way we hit a fish during takeoff. I mean, how does something like that even happen?"

"As comical as this event is, the underlying lesson is that vigilance with regards to wildlife on and around the runway is necessary to keep all aircrew and aircraft safe and to maintain our goal of mission readiness," Garven adds to The Associated Press.

And while fish strikes are rare, they've affected commercial flights in the past.

The Tribune cites a 1987 Associated Press story as evidence. In that story, the AP reported that an Alaska Airlines jet suffered "a midair collision" with a fish and had to be inspected for damage.

''They found a greasy spot with some scales, but no damage,'' Paul Bowers, the then-manager of the Juneau airport, is quoted as saying in the story -- presumably only coincidentally dated April 1, 1987.

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