Aviation News

August 8, 2010

Alaska Airlines Flight Aborts Takeoff After Eagle Gets Sucked Into Engine

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Alaska Airlines 737-400 N772AS

An Alaska Airlines 737-400 (N772AS) on final approach to LAX. (Photo by Phil Derner)

An Alaska Airlines passenger plane was forced to abort takeoff on Sunday morning when an eagle was sucked into one of its engines, a spokesman for the airline said.

Alaska Airlines flight 68, a Boeing 737-400, was in the process of taking off from Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport on Japonski Island when the pilots saw an eagle flying in front of them. It was then sucked into the left engine.

Paul McElroy, Director of Corporate Communications at Alaska Airlines, said the engine was automatically shut down when the large bird of prey was sucked into the engine. The pilots immediately aborted takeoff, according to procedures, and came to a halt about halfway the runway.

McElroy said the aircraft was able to taxi back to the terminal with its other engine. “Fortunately, no one was injured,” he said.

But because the engine was damaged as a result of the bird strike, another aircraft was flown in from Anchorage to fly the 134 passengers and 5 crew members to its original destination in Seattle.

They were expected to depart the airport in Sitka at around 3.30 p.m. AKDT and were scheduled to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at around 6.30 p.m. PDT.

Bird strikes can pose a significant risk to flying aircraft and have caused several accidents in the past, although most resulted in only minor damage. On October 4, 1960, however, Eastern Air Lines Flight 375 crashed on takeoff from Logan International Airport in Boston after it struck a large flock of starlings, killing 62 people on board.

And on September 22, 1995, a U.S. Air Force plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, killing all 24 crew members.

And most notably, US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, 2009 after it struck a flock of geese. Nearly 80 people were injured as a result of the crash, including five people who sustained serious injuries.