Many pilots enjoy turkey, duck and other fowl as part of traditional American overindulgence during the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the season, the AOPA Air Safety Institute presents a pair of cautionary true tales of pilots who were surprised when the main course was served in their airplanes.
The unexpected turkey serving was just last year, near Washington.D.C. An Atlantic Coast Airlines regional jet was on its takeoff roll at Dulles International Airport when two wild turkeys collided with the RJ. One of the turkeys entered the cockpit on the first officer's side, while the other battled with the number two engine. Fortunately, the RJ had not yet reached V1 and was able to abort the takeoff without human injury.
Two years ago, a pilot near Deadhorse, Alaska inadvertently went duck hunting in a twin turboprop Beech 99 when a flock of four ducks flew from right to left in front of his airplane. Frantic maneuvering failed to avoid the ducks, which left substantial damage to the fuselage, forward bulkhead and radome. The pilot was able to continue to the nearest airport, which fortunately was his destination.
"Bird strikes aren't usually a big problem for GA pilots, but it's well worth keeping watch for the possibility," said AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg. "Particularly during migration seasons, it's not uncommon to hear ATC warn of bird activity near airports, and wise pilots increase their vigilance."
Landsberg also suggested that pilots be especially alert in late December for flying reindeer pulling a loaded red sleigh with a jovial, bearded man in a red suit.
More information on bird strikes is available in the ASI Safety Brief, Bird Strikes, and AOPA's special report on Bird and Wildlife Strikes. In addition you may view an ASI "Safety Pilot" article by Bruce Landsberg, and a reprint of a June, 1996 review of bird strikes in Flight Training magazine.
Accident reports can be found in ASI's accident database.