Turning a plane around mid-flight is a rare occurrence and is often due to some sort of pressing mechanical issue. But on occasion an unforeseeable, non-technological event happens that forces the plane to make an unexpected u-turn. That’s exactly what happened Thursday night when a plane going from New York to Tennessee had to make an emergency landing in West Virginia—because a bird hit the windshield.
Airport spokesman Mike Plante said the pilot alerted air traffic controllers they were going to make an emergency landing at 4:50 p.m., after a bird struck the plane and cracked the windshield.
It's not the only flight to have been forced to turn around because of encounters with birds. Earlier this week a plane lost an engine because of a bird strike, causing the Washington, D.C.-bound flight to return to Key West International Airport. Flight FR3445 to Palma de Mallorca in Spain returned to Manchester Airport after the plane collided with a bird shortly after takeoff. An American flight returned mid-journey to JFK Airport after the pilot hit a flock of geese after takeoff. And in 2010 a Beirut flight had to turn around when a bird got caught in the plane’s fan blades. Luckily, no one was injured in these cases, and the planes made it safely to the ground.
These freak events aren’t the only bizarre things to happen to or on a plane that force it to turn around. Over the years there’s been tales stories of airborne incidents that have caused mid-air detours. From odd smells and foreign creatures taking over the cabin to a mystery illness and an impromptu passenger performing Whitney Houston, these are some of the weirdest reasons planes have had to turn around.