Delta Pilot Too Distracted to Fly, Returns to Detroit

Yesterday’s Delta Boeing 717 flight DL1943 from Detroit to Atlanta became a 22 minute trip from Detroit to Detroit when there was a bird discovered flying around the cockpit. And it wasn’t the first time a bird flew around the cockpit that day on that plane.

During boarding a bird — reports vary that it may have been a sparrow or a hummingbird (“which is the only bird that can fly backward”) — flew into the cockpit. The flight took a delay while maintenance searched for the bird. For an hour. But they couldn’t find it, and eventually the plane took off.

However shortly after takeoff the bird started flying around the cockpit again, and the pilot decided it was enough of a safety risk to turn right around and land back in Detroit. A passenger reports the captain announced,

‘I have an update that the bird is back and it’s going a little nuts in here in the cockpit and we do not feel safe continuing on this flight, so we’re going to go back to Detroit,’

Once at the gate they managed to catch the bird. It was “safely removed and set free” and they took off for Atlanta a second time.

Delta in Atlanta

Worst best line about the incident? “It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a bird on a plane.”

(HT: Ken A.)

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. It’s time to add a few new pieces of onboard safety equipment; a large butterfly net and a bird cage.

  2. Man, the titles on some of these posts could be just a little better…something like “Bird in Cockpit Causes Plane to Return” makes so much more sense than a distracted pilot. I clicked on the link thinking that his mind was wandering because of the holidays or something…

  3. How ridiculous can this be ??? A small bird in the cockpit (that could have easily been caught) makes a plane turn around ??? If I were Delta’s CEO I would certainly know which bird to sack !

  4. May-haps they did not want to be violating a law of bringing a banned invasive species into a pest free area. Similar to boats bringing mussels in lakes in the south west.

  5. To all who fly, you know how dumb the doctors comments are. Stuff happens that are out of the control of the people that are in the cockpit.
    Fly as safe as you can and thank you from a frequent flyer.

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