- Bird strikes occur more often than expected but usually do not have serious consequences for flights.
- In this incident, an Airbus A320-200 experienced a double bird strike shortly after takeoff from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
- The aircraft was able to safely land despite engine damage and re-entered commercial service after two days.
On 26 January 2024, an Airbus A320-200 suffered a double bird strike that damaged both engines shortly after departing from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA). While the aircraft’s engines were impaired by the incident, the jet was able to touch back down safely shortly after taking off.
No injuries were reported from the incident, and the aircraft was able to re-enter commercial service after sitting on the ground for just shy of two days. The aircraft was operating as Allegiant Flight 693 at the time, a regular nonstop service between Phoenix and Des Moines International Airport (DSM) in Iowa.
As the incident is officially classified as minor, it is unsurprising that there are few specific details available as to why specifically the aircraft encountered the birds, which ultimately damaged its engines. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) platform included relatively few details, stating that the jet reported multiple bird strikes on rotation.
Photo: Markus Mainka | Shutterstock
The report would go on to indicate that the plane returned back to Phoenix and landed safely without incident. Furthermore, a post-landing inspection was conducted and revealed that the bird strikes had done damage to both engines, which required immediate attention from the airline’s maintenance team.
According to an analysis of the incident from The Aviation Herald, the aircraft had departed from Mesa Airport’s runway 30C prior to encountering the birds. The specific strikes occurred once the jet had reached a height of 6,000 feet, after which the plane quickly descended and landed normally on the facility’s runway 30L.
Photo: Artistic Operations | Shutterstock
Flight tracking details are also able to confirm this, with the website Flight Aware also indicating that the aircraft reached an altitude of 6,000 feet before returning to IWA just 26 minutes after departure. In total, the aircraft only flew 47 miles and reached a maximum speed of just under 300 miles per hour.
While one might expect bird strikes to be a rare event with serious flight safety implications, they actually occur far more often than one might expect. In fact, the vast majority of bird strike incidents result in no serious consequences for passengers.
The airline has an over 20-year history.
Nonetheless, bird strikes during certain moments, such as takeoff or landing, can seriously damage engines, alongside other parts of an aircraft, such as the windscreen and nose cone. Almost always, aircraft are able to safely make an emergency landing, and maintenance teams will be able to address the damage within a number of days.
In order to ensure that bird strikes do not lead to potentially catastrophic incidents, manufacturers and regulators perform a number of tests on new engines in order to ensure that they can safely withstand a foreign object being ingested. Most of the time, aircraft engines can still safely operate when encountering objects way larger than a typical bird.
Multiple non-lethal bird strike incidents have occurred this year so far. Just two days ago, a Lufthansa Airbus A340 was forced to return to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), and a Southwest 737 MAX 8 encountered a similar situation and was forced to land again at New Orleans International Airport (MSY).