Thursday, March 06, 2014

Fish strike forced jet to abort takeoff at Air Force base

Bird strikes are a familiar hazard for aircraft. Now authorities at a Florida military base say they've recorded a fish strike. According to MacDill Air Force Base officials, a jet flown by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pilot was struck by a 9-inch sheepshead during takeoff in September.

Lt. Cmdr. Nick Toth a NOAA pilot, and his crew aboard a Gulfstream GIV were cleared for takeoff . "We were nearing the point in the takeoff where we needed to rotate, or raise the nose of the airplane off the ground, when an osprey with something in its claws flew in front of our aircraft," Toth said. "We saw that the osprey did not gain enough altitude, and that it passed underneath the centre line of the aircraft."

Then the crew heard a thud and, assuming they had hit the osprey, aborted the takeoff. The aircraft taxied back to a hangar for inspection.They called in someone from the base's Airfield Management and Operations and Wildlife Management to see if they could find the osprey. Lindsey Garven, a 6th Air Mobility Wing Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard contractor, said her crew swept the runway but didn't find anything until they reached the end of the runway. There was the sheepshead.

She collected the fish and then took some DNA from the aircraft and sent the samples to the Smithsonian Feather Identification Laboratory in Washington. It turns out that it was the sheepshead that had struck the plane. The crew suspects that the osprey was eating the fish on the runway and took off when the airplane approached. The bird barely got away and probably would have struck the aircraft if it hadn't let go of its catch.

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