The 500-pound reptile was killed in the collision.
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) Florida Orlando Airport
Credit: Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

A pilot got a harsh lesson in rough landings last week when he entered Orlando International Airport and struck an 11-foot alligator along the way.

According to the Miami Herald, pilot Rick Crose struck and killed the alligator at 2 a.m. on June 1. Crose was landing his plane on Runway 7/25 at the airport, which provides 24-hour service to mostly corporate travelers, when he noticed the large animal laying across the center line. He hit the gator just as he touched down, according to an airport spokesperson.

According to reports, the wing of Crose’s Piper P-A31 was damaged by the gator, however Crose himself was unharmed. Fish and Wildlife Services confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that they pulled the 500-pound gator off the runway a few hours later.

“I was told the pilot was flying a Navajo and the gator jumped up and struck the wing during his landing,” Brad Pierce, a fellow pilot, wrote on a now viral Facebook post about the incident. “The gator was killed instantly and the aircraft sustained damage to the wing.”

Pierce added that he has never seen anything like this incident in all his years of flying. He also quipped, “Welcome to Florida folks!”

Wildlife at airports is a growing concern for those in the aviation field. According to a 2015 government study, about 160,000 incidents of wildlife striking civil airplanes have occurred since 1990. The number of strikes has markedly increased over the years, with 1,851 strikes reported in 1990 and a record 13,668 in 2014.

As the Chicago Tribune noted, growing bird populations and an increase in air travel by quieter aircrafts have contributed to the rise in strikes. To help mitigate the issue, Boeing released a few strategies on avoiding birds and other wildlife, including delaying the takeoff or landing when fuel permits and taking off or landing on another runway that is free of bird activity, if available.