Proving pigeons and Airbuses don’t mix, the remains of a pigeon was extracted from the nose gear of an A320-200 on Friday. The Tunisair flight from Tunis to Munich hit the unlucky bird as it was taking off. As all systems appeared normal, the flight and the bird continued on to Germany.
Two birds, one outcome
According to a report in The Aviation Herald, the Tunisair Airbus A320-200 was operating flight TU542. The plane had just taken off when it hit the pigeon. But the pigeon wasn’t the only bird to have a bad day on Friday.
After landing in Munich, an inspection of the Airbus found the remains of the pigeon in the nose gear. There was also fan blade damage in the right-hand engine. Engineers believe an eagle was chasing the pigeon and chanced it with a jet engine.
Following the birdstrike, there were no indications of problems with the plane, so the pilots elected to continue to Munich. The flight departed Tunis at 16:37 local time on Friday and arrived safely into Munich 19:16. There were 145 passengers and crew onboard the short one hour and forty-minute flight.
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Birdstrikes an occupational hazard of flying
It is estimated that bird strikes cause US$610 million worth of damage to aircraft each year. Birdstrike has been an occupational hazard of flying ever since Orville Wright flew too close to a flock of birds and ended up collecting one in 1908.
Between 2008 and 2015, the International Civil Aviation Authorization (ICAO) recorded a total of 97,751 reported global bird strikes.
Usually, the bird hits an aircraft’s nose, canopy, wing, or engine. It is relatively unusual for a bird to become entangled in landing gear like Friday’s incident. Arguably, the more significant issue was the engine ingesting the (presumed) eagle. Engine ingestion can disrupt the rotary motion of the fan blades and cause engine failure.
Birdstrikes less common than they seem
While birdstrikes aren’t unusual, when factoring in the sheer number of flights that usually operate, they are not as common as many people think. Bigger planes, such as Friday’s Tunisair A320-200 are far less likely to collide with a bird than smaller planes.
In the last 32 years, just over 200 people have died as a result of crashes from a birdstrike. Considering how many people usually fly, there’s roughly one fatality per 1,000 million flying hours. You are far more likely to die on your way to the airport.
Recently, a Lufthansa CRJ900 was involved in a birdstrike on its way out of Munich. In this case, the unidentified bird collided with the jet’s windscreen. That forced the plane back to Munich. While most birdstrikes seem to occur during takeoff, as was the case with both the Lufthansa and Friday’s Tunisair incident, the statistics don’t back up that perception. Only 31% of reported birdstrikes happen during the takeoff phase of a flight.
Having landed safely, the Tunisair aircraft operating Friday’s flight remains on the ground in Munich. A replacement aircraft was ferried up to perform the return flight to Tunis.