Yesterday, a Boeing 757 freighter owned by Kentucky-based UPS Airlines was forced to return to the airport shortly after departure. It had departed from King County International Airport at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington. The reason for the diversion of the flight, which was originally bound for Portland, Oregon, was a bird strike.
Yesterday morning, UPS Airlines flight 5X958 departed United Parcel Service’s world hub at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, Kentucky (SDF). This departure, six minutes late at 02:06 local time, represented the first of the two legs scheduled to make up the flight. This sector, bound for Boeing Field, Seattle (BFI), passed without incident. The aircraft arrived 17 minutes early at 03:16 local time after a flight time of four hours and ten minutes.
According to FlightRadar24.com, 5X958 had only operated as far as Seattle on the previous three days. However, yesterday, the flight was also scheduled to operate a second sector. This was bound for Portland International Airport (PDX) in the neighboring state of Oregon. After just over an hour on the ground, this leg departed two minutes early at 04:19 local time.
The Aviation Herald reports this is where 5X958 ran into difficulty. It reports that, as the aircraft was rotating for takeoff on runway 32L, it experienced a bird strike. This was confirmed by tower staff, who reported seeing a cloud of dust to the aircraft’s left. As a result, the flight crew halted the climb upon reaching 4,000 feet. It then returned to Boeing Field, having joined a left downwind traffic pattern.
After just 19 minutes in the air, the flight landed safely on Boeing Field’s runway 32L, stopping on the runway. Its crew then requested emergency services to check the plane’s left-hand side for damage caused by the bird strike. This could have included hydraulic leaks as well as cosmetic damage. However, the emergency services reported that no such damage was evident.
The aircraft involved
The aircraft that experienced the bird strike was N453UP, a Boeing 757-200PF (of which UPS was the launch customer in 1987). According to Planespotters.net, UPS took delivery of the aircraft in August 1995, and it has remained in service at the company ever since.
According to FlightRadar24.com, N453UP has not returned to the skies since the incident occurred yesterday morning.
An established cargo airline
UPS Airlines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Parcel Service, is the world’s fourth-largest cargo airline. This ranking is in terms of volume of freight flown. The carrier serves 815 locations worldwide, and boasts a large and diverse fleet. According to Planespotters.net, this consists of:
- Airbus A300F x52 (1 retired)
- Boeing 747F x31 (27 retired, 2 on order)
- Boeing 757F x75
- Boeing 767F x76 (2 on order)
- McDonnell Douglas MD-11F x39 (1 retired)
In previous years, UPS also operated 53 examples of the Douglas DC-8F. It retired the last of these in 2009.
The airline has not been hit particularly hard by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Whereas passenger demand levels have fallen sharply, cargo airlines have played an increasingly important role in keeping the world moving. Of the 273 aircraft that presently make up the UPS Airlines fleet (with an average age of 20 years), only 14 have been grounded.
Have you ever experienced a bird strike? Let us know your experiences in the comments.