A Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 operating as Flight DL-1063 on Thursday, April 19, 2012 from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Jamaica, New York to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) encountered a bird strike in the aircraft’s right engine shortly after 3:15 p.m. EDT forcing the plane to return to runway 22R, as reported on that date by NYC Aviation, USA Today, Bloomberg News Service, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other media sources.
The incident happened at about 1,500 feet shortly after the aircraft had taken off with 172 passengers and a crew of 7 aboard.
Travelers reported hearing a loud grinding noise coming from the starboard engine, persisting for about thirty to forty seconds, followed by flames and a plume of white smoke from the jet’s exhaust. The odor of dead birds was also noticeable within the cabin.
One of the plane’s pilots calmly declared an emergency to air traffic control, as seen on the attached video clip and slide show which accompany this report, saying “Delta 1063 has had an engine failure in the right engine, declaring an emergency due to a bird strike.”
Within minutes of the incident, the aircraft had been vectored back for a landing and was being inspected at a remote area.
Passengers praised the crew for their professional handling of the incident, and had high compliments for Delta, who were giving out meal vouchers and new boarding passes for another aircraft with the same flight number, scheduled to depart about 7:00 p.m. that evening.
It was not a bad experience, according to CNN anchor Ali Velshi who was on the flight, saying, “I walk away from this not dissatisfied that I’ll be arriving in LA four hours late, but with the satisfaction of knowing that there was a great crew flying the plane.”
Others made comparisons to Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and copilot Jeffrey Skiles who were at the controls of US Airways Flight 1549 which ditched in the Hudson River after a bird strike by a flock of Canada geese during its initial climb out from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) on January 15, 2009.
According to a report by the The Federal Aviation Administration and the Bird Strike Committee USA, estimates indicate the problem costs US aviation $600 million dollars annually and has resulted in over 200 worldwide deaths since 1988.
The Central Science Laboratory (CSL) in the U.K. has come up with an even higher estimate of $1.2 billion dollars in annual worldwide airline costs from bird strikes, also referred to as BASH, for Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard. These costs include direct repair cost and lost revenue opportunities while the damaged aircraft is out of service.
As many as 80% of bird strikes initially go unreported, detected after the fact through routine engine maintenance. In 2003, there were 4,300 bird strikes listed by the United States Air Force and 5,900 by US civil aircraft.
ABC News lists various nonlethal ways airports try to control their resident bird populations which includes growing grass that grazing geese will not eat, trimming rodent populations to keep raptors away, covering wetlands with netting, scarecrows, frightening explosions and the occasional shotgun blast.
Even with such measures, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), which operates airports in the region, came up with an estimate of 80 to 315 aircraft struck by birds each year at JFK between 1979 to 1998.
For the passengers and crew of Delta Air Lines Flight DL-1063, those statistics became a vivid reality.
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