Canadian budget airline Swoop says one of its jets was forced to make an emergency landing Tuesday after a bird strike caused an engine fire.
According to tracking website FlightAware, Swoop Flight 312 had just departed Abbotsford International Airport in British Columbia at 8:16 a.m. PDT bound for Edmonton when geese flew into one of the Boeing 737’s engines minutes after takeoff.
The pilots were able to safely land back at Abbotsford about 10 minutes later and none of the crew or 176 passengers were injured, representatives for the airline and airport told The Canadian Broadcast Corporation and CTV.
Swoop acknowledged the incident via tweet a couple of hours later.
“We can confirm Flight 312 landed safely in Abbotsford due to a bird strike shortly after departure,” it read. All travelers were offloaded safely and without incident. Thank you to our captain and crew for ensuring the safety of our travelers.”
USA TODAY has reached out to Swoop, a subsidiary of WestJet, for comment.
Things may have seemed calm from the outside but passengers briefly panicked after seeing flames jetting from the right engine.
“As the aircraft was rolling down the runway, it felt like we hit a bump,” Fadhl Abu-Ghanem told Canadian TV network CTV after the plane was safely offloaded. “Next thing I know I start seeing flames coming out of the right engine…I also felt very strong heat… I looked around for a flight attendant and couldn’t find one so I just started yelling ‘There’s fire, fire, fire right engine, fire right engine!’ “
Abu-Ghanem added that he began texting his mother, saying, “Something’s wrong with the airplane. I love you.”
Fellow passenger Bruce Mason said the bird strike was a lot scarier than the blown tire he experienced on a previous flight.
“That’s pretty benign compared to this,” he told CTV. “There’s smoke, there’s fire and you think ‘Well, is this it?'”
“Grateful for a skilled pilot and a safe return to Abbotsford,” a passenger who who goes by Rodriguez_Revolution on Instagram said.
Pilot: Emergency landings due to bird strikes ‘exceedingly rare’
The plane was inspected and returned to service that same night, completing its flight to Edmonton.
Because all twin-engine airplanes are designed to fly with one engine inoperative, losing one does not put additional strain on the other, explains John Cox, a retired US Airways Pilot and USA TODAY columnist.
Cox adds that some in the aviation community have advocated for installing filters over the engines to keep birds out while letting air flow in. However, it’s an imperfect solution given that the filter could split the bird into small enough pieces to damage the engine or be sucked into the engine along with the bird, causing far more damage than the bird could do on its own.
In most cases, he says, a bird goes into the engine and is thrown outward into the fan duct where it does little or no damage. Very rarely one will get pulled into the engine’s core, which can cause more damage.
“Emergency landings due to bird strikes exceedingly rare,” Cox says. Still, the Swoop incident is the third such landing in six months.
In August, a Russian pilot landed his Airbus A321 in a cornfield after losing both engines to a bird strike. And in March, an American Airlines returned to Boston’s Logan International Airport 11 minutes after taking off. It was bound for New York’s LaGuardia Airport, site of 2009’s “Miracle on the Hudson,” where Captain Chesley Sullenberger ditched his US Airways Airbus A320 jet in the Hudson River after birds disabled both engines.
A passenger jet made an emergency landing in a field outside of one of Moscow’s airports Thursday after colliding with a flock of birds, injuring at least 23 people, Russian officials said.
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