Alaska Airlines Plane Hits Brown Bear Upon Landing
Despite the Yakutat airport’s best efforts to keep wildlife from interfering with air traffic, a female bear and cub happened to cross the runway at the most unfortunate moment.
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became known for his "Miracle on the Hudson" flight that hit a flock of birds, but a plane hit a far more unusual animal this past weekend in Alaska — a brown bear.
Just after Alaska Airlines flight 66 from Cordova landed in Yakutat on Saturday, the crew spotted two bears scurrying across the runway, according to Anchorage Daily News.
“The nose gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left side after the bears passed under the plane,” the airline told CNN in a statement.
After a safe landing, the pilots saw a bear, which was killed by the impact, lying near the center of the runway. The damage on the left engine cowl shows the severity of the hit.
The Boeing 737-700 aircraft is being repaired and the bear’s remains were brought to a warehouse for proper disposal by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, CNN reported.
“It's a rare occurrence for something like this to happen,” Sam Dapcevich of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities told CNN. "I've been in Alaska my whole life and we've had aircraft strike birds and other animals ... but this is the first instance of a bear that I've ever heard of.”
Two bears — thought to be a female and cub — had been seen in the area, but not on the day of the incident. The airport is fenced partially to prevent wildlife from entering the airport grounds, plus staff is trained to use vehicles and pyrotechnics to safely guide them away to prevent any interaction with air traffic control, Dapcevich explained to the news outlet.
The victim bear is believed to be the mother, while the cub went unharmed, Anchorage Daily News reported. In Alaska, wildlife collisions with animals aren’t entirely uncommon, but they tend to be with deer, geese, and caribou.
However, the most unusual incident definitely comes from the time a plane was hit by a fish in 1987. While a Boeing 737 was taking off from Juneau, a bald eagle had dropped a fish, which just happened to collide with the plane, coincidentally on its way to Yakutat, according to The New York Times. The plane was not damaged, but some grease and scales were found on the surface.