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American Flight Hits Birds, Returns To O’Hare

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CHICAGO (CBS) — An American Airlines flight had to make an emergency return to O’Hare International Airport after striking some birds after takeoff on Tuesday.

Flight 1076 took off around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday for Orange County, Calif., said American spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan, when it “hit a bird or birds on takeoff.”

The pilot declared an emergency and returned to O’Hare, landing safely around 8:45 a.m., Fagan said.

In the cockpit’s communication with the control tower, the crew reported that it encountered “a multiple bird strike right after departure.” The birds were likely Canada Geese, according to the transmission.


The aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, was carrying 109 passengers and a crew of five.

Maintenance crews checked the aircraft and it was refueled and took off around 10:30 a.m. for John Wayne Airport.

Aviation Department spokesperson Karen Pride said that a variety of measures are being used to try to deter birds from the airport area, using everything from noisemakers to llamas, goats and dogs. But DePaul University Chaddick Institute executive director Joe Schweiterman told CBS 2 nothing seems to work well, whether it’s of low-tech or high-tech origin.

He said radar has not been refined to the point where it can spot flocks of birds for pilots to avoid. And he said it is much more critical for all engines to be operating on today’s commercial jets, which have two engines instead of the three and four engines that were common in the days of McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s and Boeing 707s.

Schweiterman said the problem is one that appears to be worsening, although he was unable to say it can blamed on global warming or some other natural event.

Pilot Ken Phlamm says the danger of a bird strike is greatest, “…anywhere from about 200 feet above the ground to about 500 feet.”

“It’s where 70 percent of ‘em occur. Most of our bird strikes in this area are all by geese.”

Phlamm, who has hit geese and birds while flying himself, says it’s a particular concern this time of year as birds migrate.

“There’s not a ton you can do. We can try climbing which is the best way to get out of it most birds dive.”

Phlamm says small planes usually stay in flight. It’s a different story for jets. He says the risk decreases greatly by mid-November when migration ends.

According to the FAA website, there have been 102 bird incidents at O’Hare and Midway from Jan. 1-June 30. Not all of the incidents required an emergency landing.

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