An American Airlines flight bound for Phoenix on Sunday morning returned to Ohio’s John Glenn Columbus International Airport because a bird strike disabled the engine, officials said.
A post-strike engine fire was captured on cellphone video verified by NBC News. It shows flames from No. 2 engines licking the right wing of an airplane in flight.
Takeoff is scheduled for 7:43 am, according to the tracker FlightAwareand the bird strike happened around 8 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.
The aircraft returned to the airport shortly after and landed safely, American Airlines said in its own statement.
“The flight landed normally and safely taxied to the gate under its own power,” it said. “The aircraft has been taken out of service for maintenance and our team is working to get customers back on their journey.”
The Boeing 737-800 had 173 passengers and crew and was carrying 30,000 pounds of fuel, according to radio traffic with air traffic controllers.
No injuries were reported.
The diverted version of the flight was minutes from landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Sunday afternoon, according to FlightAware.
Passenger John Fisher told the NBC affiliate WCMH of Columbus that passengers quickly learned of the bird attack because of the sounds made by the collision.
“We must have hit a flock of geese and the engine started making a really loud ‘clonk, clonk, clonk’ noise,” he said. “Eventually they turned off the engine and turned around and went back to the airport.”
Emergency crews responded after the aircraft landed, but the flight schedule and arrivals at John Glenn Columbus International Airport were not affected, the airport said.
The airport initially blamed an engine fire, but later said “mechanical issues” prompted the aircraft’s return.
For domestic air travel, bird strikes are both common and potentially catastrophic, blamed for 350 deaths in the history of US passenger aviation, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
The FAA defines large birds, among nature’s most dangerous elements for pilots, as those weighing four pounds or more. “No aircraft engine is certified to eat a large bird without shutting down,” the agency said in a resource paper about the phenomenon.
The bird strike heard around the world took place on Jan. 15, 2009, when an Airbus A320 designated as US Airways flight 1549 from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport struck a flock of geese so large it took out both engines and spun the nearly 70-ton aircraft into a glider.
Retired pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger acted quickly and directed the plane for the Hudson River, where he made a successful emergency landing without death.
Bird strikes may increase in the US as bird populations expand as aircraft become quieter, according to the FAA.
The number of Canada geese in the country has tripled in a decade, according to the pilot association. Their weight is an average of 12 pounds, it said, and the machines can be individually disabled.
Its advice to pilots is to avoid wetlands, be aware of seasons and bird migration patterns, and always be prepared for bird strikes, as they seem inevitable.