A United Airlines flight had to make an emergency landing after a bird collided with the plane. According to the airline, on Friday, the aircraft unexpectedly had to return to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Per reports, Flight 1930 was en route to Miami International Airport on a Boeing 737-900.
“The aircraft landed safely and passengers deplaned at the gate,” United Airlines said following the incident. The airline didn’t provide details of any potential damage to the plane.
Kimberly Fiock was on the plane on Friday morning along with her husband. “I knew something was wrong because there was fire below the wing that kept coming out in spurts, and it felt like the plane was kind of jerking,” she told news outlets.
She added: “We could hear the pops of the engine trying to start and see the fire on our side since we were right by the wing. The lights kept flickering, too, when it would pop. I was just hoping we would be able to land safely!”
Fiock also said she didn’t realize a bird collision had caused the issue until after the plane touched down. “The pilots did a great job getting us back safely, and I’m so grateful to them and the crew,” she said.
FlightAware, the popular Flight tracking site, showed that Flight 1930 took off at 10:47 a.m. local time and returned to the Chicago airport just 42 minutes later.
FAA says wildlife strikes with flights on the rise
According to the airlines, the flight got a new plane. It later took off early on Friday afternoon. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, in 2019, more than 17,000 wildlife collisions involving planes were at 753 US airports.
The FAA adds that aircraft engines are the country’s most frequently damaged component of the plane, making up about a quarter of all damaged aircraft components. The FAA also has a Wildlife Strike Database tracking similar incidents. According to the FAA’s website, wildlife strikes involving aircraft have been rising in recent years.
In 2018, the FAA website said that wildlife crashes have steadily increased from about 1,800 in 1990 to 16,000.
“Expanding wildlife populations, increases in the number of aircraft movements, a trend toward faster and quieter aircraft, and outreach to the aviation community all have contributed to the observed increase in reported wildlife strikes,” the FAA site continues.
In 2009, airplane pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III heroically landed US Airways Flight 1549 on New York’s Hudson River after a double bird strike drastically damaged its twin engines.
Shortly after Sullenberger took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport with 154 passengers and crew, two eight-pound geese flew into each of the plane’s twin engines. Suddenly both engines weren’t working, and Sullenberger had to make a difficult decision.
He had to decide between reaching an airport’s runway or attempting a water landing. Sullenberger set his sights on the Hudson River, which investigators later said was the only choice he had to save the plane and its passengers.