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Bird strikes: Second New York flight in six days is aborted

April 25, 2012|By Tina Susman

NEW YORK -- A Jet Blue flight headed for Florida made an emergency landing minutes after takeoff from a New York-area airport when it collided with birds in the air, the second such incident in six days in a region where birds forced a jet to ditch into the Hudson River three years ago.

Nobody was injured in Tuesday night's incident involving JetBlue Flight 571, which left Westchester Airport just north of New York City at 6:45 p.m. with 54 passengers and four crew on board. The aircraft involved was an Embraer E190, according to the airline. There were no reports of injuries or major damage to the plane.

Last Thursday, a Delta flight headed for Los Angeles from New York turned around and made an emergency landing back at John F. Kennedy International Airport after birds were sucked into an engine -- the same thing that downed US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009 when Capt. Chesley Sullenberger managed to land it safely on the Hudson River off Manhattan. Also last Thursday, Air Force Two, carrying Vice President Joe Biden, hit birds while on approach to the Santa Barbara airport.

Wildlife strikes are relatively common at airports; the FAA says that since the Hudson River incident in January 2009, pilots at New York state airports alone have reported at least 1,800 wildlife hits ranging from raccoons and red foxes on runways to unknown birds or bats in the sky. From 1990 through 2008, there were at least 100,000 reported strikes involving both military and civilian aircraft nationwide, according to the agency. Since 1990, it says 23 fatalities have been blamed on civilian aircraft bird strikes.

And while most incidents result in little or no damage or injuries, according to the agency's database, the problem is severe enough that one response has been the culling of Canada geese flocks common in New York and the same birds that brought down the US Airways flight.

Unlike last week's strike involving the Delta jet, whose passengers reported a terrifying noise after birds were sucked into an engine, Tuesday evening's incident appeared to have been noticeable only to those in the cockpit. But "out of an abundance of caution for the safety of the passengers and crew onboard, the captain elected to return to the gate," the airline said in a statement Wednesday. It said passengers were loaded onto another aircraft and left for West Palm Beach, Fla., later.

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tina.susman@latimes.com

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