Canadian low cost carrier Swoop had to make an emergency landing yesterday after ingesting a flock of geese. The Boeing 737 was barely out of sight of the airport when the bird strike occurred, forcing the crew to head back to Abbotsford Airport. Passengers on board were apparently in a state of panic, with some sending ‘goodbye messages’ to their loved ones.
The Boeing 737-800, registration C-GXRW and imaginatively named ‘Bob’, pushed back just a few minutes behind schedule, at 08:18 yesterday. With 176 passengers on board, the aircraft was bound for Edmonton from Abbotsford International, operating flight WO312 for Swoop.
However, less than 15 minutes into the flight, the aircraft ran into trouble. As it was heading out over Birch Bay, CBC News reported that it encountered a flock of geese. The left hand engine of the 737 ingested several of the birds, causing a loud bang and visible flames to be vented from the rear of the engine.
One of the passengers caught the event on camera, which was shared by a journalist from CTV News:
“I started seeing flames coming out of the right engine.” Passengers describe the terrifying moments before the plane they were on made an emergency landing in #Abbotsford. https://t.co/VCYOvhiuAh pic.twitter.com/hxto3cY2Rg
— Allison Hurst (@AllisonM_Hurst) September 11, 2019
The aircraft headed back to Abbotsford, reportedly making a safe landing just 10 minutes later.
Saw it land safely pic.twitter.com/XqC5Mtcx0v
— Lovella Schellenberg (@LovellaSchelle8) September 10, 2019
Update: We can confirm Flight 312 landed safely in Abbotsford due to a bird strike shortly after departure. All travellers were offloaded safely and without incident. Thank you to our captain and crew for ensuring the safety of our travellers.
— FlySwoop (@FlySwoop) September 10, 2019
Swoop said that they hoped the aircraft would be back in operation the following day. However, date from Flight Radar 24 shows it has not taken off yet, although it is scheduled on a service tomorrow.
Panic on board
CTV News reported a state of panic on the aircraft following the strike. Passengers spoke to the news outlet and recounted the details. One passenger, Bruce Mason, said,
“We hit bumps – it felt like speed bumps … The lights would come off and on. Over at the window seat, they start yelling, ‘Fire! Fire!'”
Another passenger resorted to sending goodbye messages to her loved ones. Sitting in a window seat, Fadhl Abu-Ghanem saw flames and said she could feel the heat. Speaking to CTV, she said,
“A flight attendant comes and I said, ‘The right engine’s on fire!’… I started texting my mom saying, ‘Something’s wrong with the airplane. I love you.'”
Other passengers took to social media to recount their experience.
Bird strike worries
While a bird strike, or indeed any sort of issue during a flight, can be terrifying, there are relatively few incidents where anything really bad has come of a strike. Although the FAA estimates around 13,000 bird strikes occur to aircraft in the US each year, when you consider there are around 87,000 flights in the US every day, that’s not very many at all, around 0.04% in fact.
While the probability of being in an aircraft that is hit by a bird is pretty low, the probability of the aircraft crashing as a result are even lower. According to the FAA, since 1990 there have been only 25 human fatalities and 279 injuries caused as a result of bird strikes.
Hitting a whole flock of birds, particularly large birds such as geese, can be dangerous. Just last month a Ural Airlines A321 crash-landed in a cornfield after a bird strike, and then, of course, there’s the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, which was, again, the fault of geese. However, these incidents are few and far between; most of the time the affected aircraft manages to land at the airport without further issue.
Have you ever been on a plane involved in a bird strike? Perhaps you were on this Swoop flight? Let us know about it in the comments.