Japan Airlines 737 Ingests Bird And Makes Emergency Landing

A Japan Airlines flight from Matsuyama to Tokyo Haneda  was forced to divert to Osaka yesterday after a bird was ingested into one of the plane’s two engines.

A Japan Airlines Boeing 737 ingested a bird after departing from Japan’s Matsuyama Airport yesterday. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr.

What happened?

A report in The Aviation Herald says Japan Airlines flight JL434 departed from Matsuyama en route to Haneda yesterday, Monday, December 2, 2019. FlightAware has the flight leaving Matsuyama at 12:10 local time. The flight was on its initial climb when the left side engine ingested a bird.

The aircraft operating the flight was JA337J. The Aviation Herald reports that the ascent continued to 19,000 feet before stopping due to indications of engine problems. The aircraft diverted to Osaka’s Itami Airport and landed without incident approximately 50 minutes after takeoff from Matsuyama.

Source: FlightAware.

Japan Airlines JL434 is the scheduled midday departure from Matsuyama with a 13:20 arrival into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

Bird strike is a recurring problem for airlines

Bird strike is a recurring problem for airlines around the world. In the worst-case scenario, a bird strike can cause a plane to crash. In August 2019, a Ural Airlines A321 landed in a field in Russia after reportedly ingesting birds into both engines. One piece of good news here is that all passengers and crew were relatively unharmed.

Generally, the consequences are less dramatic. Most bird strikes occur as the aircraft is climbing, like yesterday’s incident at Matsuyama. The usual response is for the aircraft to abandon the climb and return to the departure airport.

Boeing notes that a bird strike usually results in a “benign” outcome, however that is not always the case. Even if there is no injury to people or damage to an aircraft, there are economic consequences whilst the aircraft is held on the ground for an inspection.

JA337J, the aircraft involved in yesterday’s bird strike incident. Photo: Ikarasawa via Wikimedia Commons.

In September 2019, a Qantas A330 on its climb out of Perth hit an eagle, causing damage to the outside casing of one engine and rather dramatically, splattering some eagle blood on the outside of a window. That flight promptly returned to Perth.

And as Simple Flying reported when covering that incident, bird strikes are far from uncommon. Perth Airport alone had over 550 bird strike incidents over the previous decade.

Research can minimise but will not prevent bird strike

Research by Boeing found that nearly three quarters of aircraft bird strikes involve the wing or the engine. 44% of all bird strikes involve an aircraft’s engine, 31% involve the wings, 13% involve the windshield, 8% involve the aircraft’s nose, and just 4% involve the fuselage.

Obviously what bird an aircraft runs the risk of striking will depend whereabouts that aircraft is, but in the United States just four types of birds are involved in over 80% of all bird strike incidents. Research found that between 1990 and 2009, waterfowl comprised 31% of the bird type involved in aircraft bird strike incidents. Gulls were at 25%, raptors at 18% and pigeons/doves did better at keeping out of harm’s way – just 7% of these birds were involved in aircraft bird strike incidents.

The aircraft involved in yesterday’s incident, JA337J, remains on the ground at Haneda Airport.