Bird Collision Risk Increases For Pilots During Migration Season

Saturday, October 28th 2017, 9:55 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma City Thunder players were surprised to find a huge dent in their plane when they arrived in Chicago early Saturday morning.

Dakari Johnson told News 9, “Different things that possibly could have hit it, some said meteor. Pat said Superman, but it was crazy!”

Russell Westbrook added, “Seeing stuff like that just shows you how you cherish life and understand the important things in life and embrace every moment.”

The plane dropped thousands of feet after Delta says a bird likely collided with it, but thankfully the team landed safely on the ground. Pilots say during migration season, these collisions happen more often than you might think.

Eric Wells, president of Private Jets Inc., was flying a charter jet out of Wiley Post Airport just before sunrise this week when he ran into a bird. With winter coming, that just means even more birds are flying south. Many times, though, the impact of a bird is hardly felt inside the airplane.

“We heard a loud thud and then followed by a vibration,” recalls Wells.

Wells had just taken off when the collision happened, so he circled back around to land. He says, “It wasn’t any cause for alarm. Once we landed and I saw the damage, that’s whenever I got concerned.”

The bird left a small dent in the nose of Wells’s jet, but there was significant damage to his right engine.

The Thunder plane was reportedly flying much higher at 30,000 feet when it struck something in the middle of the night. Players say the plane suddenly descended, with the pilot citing a concern for cabin pressure.

OU's aviation program director Ken Carson tells News 9 that birds do not usually fly that high that late, but if that is what hit them, there would be a trail of evidence left behind.

“Usually there’s some residue of bird debris on the skin still, as long as it doesn’t go through rain.”

The Thunder certainly are not alone in being the victims of flagrant fowl this time of year. On Friday, an Air Force plane had to make an emergency landing in Tulsa after hitting a bird.

Carson says there is no need to be alarmed, however, when you board your next flight.

“The airplanes are very dependable,” he says, “very safe, a lot of redundancy systems, and almost every time everything works out just fine.” 

Crews will continue to assess the damage to the Thunder plane in the coming days to determine exactly what happened.