Southwest Flight Faces a Double Bird Strike, Bad for Plane But You Should See the Other Guy…

Bird strikes are a real problem for aircraft, and despite the first recorded bird strike happening to Orville Wright over 110 years ago we haven’t figured out how to avoid them.

They’ve downed planes, like Ethiopian 604 from Bahir Dar to Asmara in 1988. 2009’s ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ US Airways 1549 may have run into a flock of geese shortly after takeoff. And even The Space Shuttle suffered a bird strike in 2005.

They’re tough on planes, of course, but when they happen you should see the other guy

Saturday morning’s Southwest flight 3097 from Sacramento to Orange County, California suffered a double bird strike.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700, registration N7734H … performing flight WN-3097 from Sacramento, CA to Santa Ana, CA (USA) with 110 people on board, was in the initial climb out of Sacramento’s runway 16R when the crew reported flying through a flock of birds at about 1000 feet AGL, bird strikes into both engines (CFM56)…

Fortunately, while the left engine continued to run at reduced thrust the right engine still functioned normally.

The pilot leveled the plane off at 3000 feet and went around to land back in Sacramento about 20 minutes after takeoff.

Southwest Airlines assigned a replacement aircraft to the flight rather than cancelling, and passengers arrived about 5 hours late.

Most bird strikes occur during takeoff or landing. Usually they wind up without incident, but when sucked into an engine can lead to power loss. They’ve done damage to other parts of an aircraft, of course (nose, windshield) but the most common harm scenario is damage to an engine’s blades.

The strategy is usually keeping bird habitat away from airports — getting rid of bird food and shelter sites — as well as taking steps to scare off birds and detection of birds via radar. Nonetheless it remains a problem and risk.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You know how many retired rednecks would love to set up shop near airports and put up a sign that says “if it flies, it dies?” Bird control is literally their dream job.

  2. “…you should see the other guy”? I’m Leo on this one–I was hoping to see the bird or at the very least the damage to the engine?

  3. USAir “Miracle on the Hudson” wasn’t a maybe – FAA/NTSB pulled Canadian Geese carcasses (what was left of them) out of both engines.

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