Spirit Airlines Jet Catches Fire on Runway from Stray Bird in the Engine

by Jennifer Shea

A Spirit Airlines jet caught fire on the runway Saturday after a bird flew into one of the plane’s engines.

The plane was Flight 3044 from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It stopped on the runway after the large bird got into its engine, Fox News reports. After it stopped, officials evacuated the plane.

Spirit then bussed the passengers back to the terminal. Passengers of Fight 3044 received a full refund and travel vouchers along with an offer to take another flight to Florida that night.

State Officials Watching Spirit Airlines Incident

State officials were keeping a close eye on the airport after the jet caught fire. According to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, the airport closed briefly as a result of the incident. It then quickly re-opened.

“We’re closely monitoring an aircraft incident that happened tonight at @ACYAirport,” Murphy tweeted Saturday evening. “All passengers and crew were successfully evacuated off the plane, and no serious injuries reported. The airport has reopened.”

In a statement, Spirit Airlines said the plane never left the ground. The cabin never caught fire. And moreover, the plane’s captain followed safety protocols.

“The captain braked safely and brought the plane to a stop, received an indication of damage to the engine, and ordered an evacuation in accordance with our standard procedures,” Spirit told The Press of Atlantic City. “We commend our crew for handling the situation swiftly and safely.”

Fire Crews Beat Back the Blaze

The 5:36 p.m. flight had been delayed and was just about to take off when the fire broke out around 5:55 p.m.

Atlantic City International Airport Fire Department firefighters were joined by other crews, including one from the Bayview Volunteer Fire Company, in fighting the flames. By 8:30 p.m., emergency vehicles were still responding to the fire, according to the Press of Atlantic City.

Bird strikes, or collisions between birds and airplanes, happen most frequently when planes are close to the runway, according to Live Science. The birds can cause serious problems, particularly if they are gulls, raptors or geese, and particularly if they get pulled into the engine and collide with an engine fan blade. That can cause a domino effect that can spark a fire or result in engine failure.

A 12-pound Canada goose that hits an aircraft moving at 150 mph upon lift-off will have the impact of a 1,000-pound weight falling from 10 feet in the air, Bird Strike Committee USA told Live Science.