South Africa Bird Strike Breaks Propeller Shattering Plane Window

Bird strikes are not uncommon in aviation. Thankfully, most incidents are relatively minor, although some can be much more serious. Such was the case on a flight yesterday when a Jetstream JS-41 operated by South African airline Airlink suffered a snapped propellor blade as a result of the strike. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but the aircraft was seriously damaged.

Airlink
An Airlink JS-41 suffered serious damage after coming into contact with a bird. Photo: Airlink

Bird strike

South African airline Airlink is well known for its fleet of Embraer regional jets. The carrier flies 47 of the type, ranging from the smallest EMB 135 to the ERJ 190. But, alongside these more commonly seen jets, the airline also has a small fleet of BAe Jetstream 41s, with six in total under its care.

At present, five of those six are listed as inactive, according to ch-aviaiton.com. But one is still operating, and was undertaking a charter flight from Johannesburg to Venetia Mine (South Africa) when it was involved in a terrifying incident.

As the aircraft was approaching Venetia Mine, a bird struck the propellor on the right hand side. The strike was so forceful that the blade snapped off from the hub, penetrating the sidewall of the aircraft and causing damage even on the inside of the cabin.

Thankfully there were no passengers seated in the area where the penetration occurred. It appears that the blade entered the cabin through the cabin wall  However, its force and trajectory saw it hurtle across the cabin and smash into the passenger window, destroying the window pane on the opposite side of the fuselage.

Wooden blades?

The aircraft, ZS-NRJ, is a 26-year-old model, delivered new to Airlink in 1995. It has seats for 29 in an all-economy layout, with solo seats on the left and twin seats on the right of the aisle.

The detritus created from the blade detachment appears to show splinters of wood across the cabin. While this is partly true, it’s not just plain wood that makes up the propellors of this aircraft.

The JS-41 has MT-Propeller blades, a natural composite blade that has been in production since 1928 in Germany. MT natural composite has been tested to produce lower vibrations and better damping than other materials, plus they have greater ground clearance. The JS-41 was awarded an STC for MT-props by SACAA in 2011.

Airlink issued a statement regarding the incident, saying,

Yesterday an Airlink Jetstream 41 aircraft operating a private charter flight struck a large bird upon landing at Venetia airfield. None of the passengers or crew were injured although the aircraft sustained substantial damage.

In compliance with aviation protocols and regulations, the occurrence was reported to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) which will conduct an investigation.

The aircraft remains at Venetia airfield pending the SACAA’s inspection and a full damage assessment.

It was incredibly lucky that no passengers were sitting in the seats where the blade entered the cabin. Many will be reminded of the fateful Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, where a fan blade from the turbine caused serious damage to the Boeing 737 and ultimately led to the death of a passenger. Airlink’s story had a happier ending, but could have been much worse.

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