American Jet Strikes Birds on Landing – Lots of Blood but Only Avian Casualties

November 17, 2022 / 2 Comments

As bird strikes go, this one had to be a doozy.

Late Tuesday night, American Airlines flight 1855 from Chicago to Kansas City flew through birds on approach, about 7 and a half miles from the runway. The pilots declared an emergency and Kansas City airport fire and rescue trucks hurried into position.

The pilots landed safely and there were no injuries to passengers or crew.

Looking at the damage though, which extends across the front of the aircraft, it appears the engine cowling took the brunt of the impact on the right along with the radome while birds created craters on the leading edge of the left wing.


Flying into birds is not uncommon. But they can get tricky because they are more common close to the ground; during takeoff or landing. Less altitude below means less time to recover.

I am reminded of the joke about how an airline pilot assesses the job. “Years of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.”  In a few compressed seconds on Tuesday, the flyers in the cockpit of Flight 1855 earned their paychecks.  It will take mechanics longer to get the airplane back in the air.

This video, plucked from Twitter today shows what it looks like when a big plane flies through birds. According to the person who posted it, the B-52 returned to base.

Not all bird-strike stories have such a happy outcome. The most famous is USAirways Flight 1549 which the crew landed on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 after hitting geese on takeoff from New York LaGuardia Airport. One hundred people were injured.

In August 2019, A Ural Airlines Airbus A321 hit birds – effectively losing both engines on takeoff from Moscow. When the pilots put the plane down in a cornfield, 74 people were injured. The plane was written off, as was the USAirways Airbus.

One startling story comes from Delta, where in 2011, a Honolulu to Japan flight had to divert to Midway due to a cracked windscreen. On approach, it collided with an albatross. The humans on board were fine, the albatross, not so much. (Don’t look, it’s sad. but you can read the full story below.)

Delta Pilots – Not a Day to Play the Lottery

Categories: Flying Lessons
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2 responses to “American Jet Strikes Birds on Landing – Lots of Blood but Only Avian Casualties”

  1. Steve Last says:

    Almost exactly 60 years ago a birdstrike led to the 1964 requirement to test for impact of multiple birds. In September (I think) 1962 a BEA Vickers Vanguard (large 4 engine turboprop) hit a large flock of birds after takeoff from Edinburgh at night with weather below landing limits. No. 4 engine failed almost immediately and the other three were also affected. At 3,800 feet No.2 engine failed and the propeller was feathered. Diversion to Prestwick was cotemplated but became impossible when a third engine became critical.

    I later flew with all 3 of the pilots aboard (Capt Denis Clifton and F/Os Ted Dunn in the RHS and Tony Gordon at the F/E station. They attributed a large elemnt of their survival to BEA’s cockpit procedures. A friend of mine who knew htem all well just wrote to say:

    “It was a remarkable tribute to the sort of team operation which the monitored approach produced. Dennis Clifton, knowing he could trust Ted Dunn to fly the aeroplane, was able to work with Tony Gordon to try and restore basic services. With two engines failed and the other two needing to be shutdown, they said the most distressing feature was that the sea of red lights made it difficult to to determine which emergency had to be dealt with first.
    The Vanguard was hard work with varying power and configuration trim yet Ted managed to fly a manual ILS with one and a half engines in limiting conditions – knowing an overshoot was not an option*. They found 120 dead seagulls on the runway – and in my opinion the other two should have had official commendations as well.” (Dennis as Captain was awarded a medal – the “Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air”).

    There’s an interesting UK CAA document here:
    * I subsequently qualified on the Vanguard and in my opinion it had truly horrible instruments and flying qualities.

  2. John McDonald says:

    I had one at TWA. 727 from Miami hit a blue herron on climb out. Punctured the radome. Diverted to PBI. Photo in paper next day had mechanic on a ladder on the ramp with the radome opened up and feathers falling out.

    I gave the reporter their caption.

    “Big bird meets little bird. Little bird loses.”

    Then we had a salmon strike in ANC. An MD80 on final in the dark heard an impact on the windscreen. They called it a bird. On inspection they found salmon scales wedged in the window frame. They suspected they frightened a fishing bird and he dropped the salmon into their path.

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