Another Southwest Airlines’ 737 was taken out of service Monday night following a bird strike. The flight was taking off from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and heading to Chicago’s Midway Airport, at the time of the incident. News reports indicate that the 124 passengers heard a large noise, smelled a foul odor, and then saw flames coming from the affected engine.
The damaged engine was shut down, and the plane turned back to the airport to make an emergency landing. The pilot managed to land the plane with one engine and no one was injured. This is the 14th bird strike so far this year at Raleigh-Durham International. The aircraft involved was grounded for further investigation.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 11,590 bird strikes in 2012. As discussed in an earlier entry (Airplanes Should Not Play Chicken With Birds), the number of such strikes has been rising consistently in recent years, leading to significant monetary damage and risking injury or death to the crew and passengers. Unfortunately, bird strikes cannot always be avoided, so airports and manufacturers – really everyone in the aviation industry — must find ways to manage the risk and minimize the damage.