We’ve posted blogs before about the dangers of bird strikes to aircraft. Bird strikes happen regularly, yet can be very dangerous and represent a serious aviation safety issue – think Captain Sully Sullenberger. Yesterday, there was a more unusual incident. A commercial aircraft hit a deer.
American Airlines, flight 5320, was taking off in Charlotte, North Carolina en route to Gulfport, Mississippi, when it struck a deer on the runway, forcing an emergency landing. Only 44 passengers and 4 crew were reportedly on the plane, and none were injured.
Because the aircraft was leaking fuel following the incident, passengers were deplaned on the runway and the aircraft was hosed off to prevent fire. While certainly not common, the incident is not unprecedented.
In 2010, a US Airways flight, also leaving Charlotte, struck a deer. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there have been 1113 deer strikes between 1990 and 2015, an average of over 73 per year. Of those, 938 resulted in damage to the aircraft and, since these animals are land-based, such strikes generally occur during takeoff or upon landing.
The FAA cites increasing populations of animals commonly involved in such strikes, increased commercial air traffic and increased technology that has led to quieter engines as a possible cause. As a result, the FAA anticipates that such strikes will be an increasing risk in coming years. To address this, the FAA recommends that airport managers assess and attempt to mitigate risk and increase strike reporting so that more accurate data can be maintained and understood.