2013-01-23 / Front Page

Geese Down Two JetBlue Planes In Two Days At JFK

By Liz Goff

A pair of bird strikes forced two JetBlue pilots to turn back to Kennedy International Airport last week.

A JetBlue flight that departed from JFK Airport enroute to the Dominican Republic at about 3:30 p.m. on January 12 reported a bird strike to air traffic controllers moments later

The pilot told controllers JetBlue flight 831 “had a bird strike, really hard on the nose.” The tower responded saying, “Any bird strike is major for us, but don’t sweat it.”

The pilot took the plane, with approximately 70 passengers, on a “u-turn” over the Atlantic Ocean and landed it safely back at JFK Airport, authorities said.

The passengers were rerouted to another plane that left JFK about 90 minutes later, authorities said.

A second JetBlue flight headed to Nassau in the Bahamas with approximately 123 passengers on board was struck by a bird “on departure” from JFK Airport at about 10 a.m. on January 12, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesperson said.

“It was not a direct hit,” a JetBlue spokesperson said. Nonetheless, the pilot turned the plane around and returned to JFK “as a precaution,” the spokesperson said.

According to the FAA, the jet, an Airbus 320, hit a “pretty large bird” as it reached an altitude of 500 to 700 feet above ground.

The bird fell onto a runway at JFK after it collided with Flight 721, airport sources said.

Passengers were boarded onto another plane that left JFK Airport several hours later, authorities said.

The stricken jetliner was inspected and returned to service, authorities said. The plane made another departure without incident from JFK about 90 minutes later, authorities said.

The two bird strikes occurred three days before the four-year anniversary of the “Miracle On The Hudson,” where Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg landed his plane in the icy waters of the Hudson River after it was hit by a gaggle of Canadian geese.

Sullenberg said he made a “split second” decision to ditch the crippled plane in the Hudson instead of heading back to LaGuardia Airport because he realized the “catastrophic consequences” of the plane crashing into residential neighborhoods surrounding La Guardia.

Investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said that moments after Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, the plane’s co-pilot spotted “a perfect formation” of Canadian geese on the right side of the aircraft.

Sullenberg looked up to see his window covered with the “big, dark birds” and he heard a loud thud – followed by the odor of burning birds, investigators said.

With both engines crippled by the bird strike, Sullenberg took over control of the Airbus A320 jetlines and told an air traffic controller at LaGuardia, “Aah, this is Cactus 1549, we hit birds. We lost thrust in both engines.”

When controllers directed Sullenberg to return to LaGuardia, the pilot replied in his final transmission to the tower, “We’re unable. We can’t do it. We may end up in the Hudson.

“We’re too low, too slow,” Sullenberg said. “Too many buildings too populated an area.”

Sullenberg landed the plane in the middle of the Hudson River and miraculously saved the 121 passengers and all crewmembers on board the jet.

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