A holiday flight turned back to land, splattered in blood and feathers, after banging and shaking as it ploughed through a flock of 50 storks, damaging its engine fan-blades and landing gear.
At least, the flock of birds may have been storks. Confusion surrounds the species involved, with one report saying the birds were not storks but ducks – and yet another suggesting egrets, which are a type of heron. Analysis will show which.
The plane was an Airbus A321-200 belonging to Thomas Cook and heading for London from Banjul Airport in Gambia, West Africa, a popular spot with British holidaymakers.
A flight attendant described hearing loud bangs and feeling the aircraft shake as the plane struck the birds during the incident last week, Britain’s Daily Mirror reported.
The attendant wrote on Facebook: “We took off, and on our climb we went through a flock of approximately 50 storks, causing a bird strike to both engines. Both engines were damaged and not functioning in the way they should have.
“We heard big bangs, felt the entire aircraft shake, shortly followed by one of our emergency commands from the flight deck.”
The Aviation Herald, Simon Hradecky’s authoritative aviation publication, said the plane “flew through a flock of ducks and ingested a number of birds into both engines” while “a number of birds struck the landing gear”. The aircraft returned to Banjul for a safe landing about 45 minutes after departure. The Aviation Herald added that 13 dead birds were recovered.
The white stork (Ciconia ciconia), which migrates between Europe and Africa, is a large bird weighing up to 4.5kg. Flying into a flock could potentially be disastrous. Ducks are smaller, though bird strike is serious when any of the larger bird species are involved.
A Thomas Cook spokesman told the Mirror that passengers were accommodated overnight in Banjul and flown home on a different plane the following morning, “while the damaged aircraft was repaired and arrived back in the UK last night.
“We apologise for the unavoidable delay to their return journey.”
Written by Peter Needham