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Much is made in the news about terrorist attacks on airplanes, of course with good reason. But there are other, somewhat “hairier” things that can also take a plane down (no pun intended). Take a look at these two reports from the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board):
In the first incident, the NTSB reports that a plane was attempting to land on a small airport runway, when a deer ran onto the pavement right toward the oncoming plane. The pilot attempted to climb, but couldn’t accomplish it before the deer struck and substantially damaged the left horizontal stabilizer. The pilot was able to stop without further incident, and no mention is made of what happened to the deer.
For an incident like this, the NTSB didn’t send an investigator, but depended upon reports from the FAA and the pilot to make its determination: The probable cause(s) of this accident—An inadvertent collision with a deer during landing. This raises the question of whether or not the airport should have had a fence, however, no fence could have prevented what happened in the next incident.
The second reported incident took place between a student pilot and our national bird, the bald eagle. According to the flight instructor, the plane was 1,000 feet above the ground when the eagle hit the right horizontal stabilizer. The instructor immediately took over and landed at the nearest airport. He reported that the rudder controls were impaired on final approach, but he managed to land without incident. Again, nothing was mentioned as to what happened to the bald eagle.
However, the plane showed a large indentation on the right horizontal stabilizer with bird feathers embedded in it. The tail cone was shoved upward into contact with the rudder, which had impeded the rudder’s movement.
For those of you unfamiliar with NTSB, it’s an independent branch of the government charged with advancing transportation safety. The NTSB’s mandate is to investigate every civil aviation accident, as well as major accidents in other types of transportation, including train accidents, marine accidents, and even pipeline accidents. They attempt to determine the probable causes and issue recommendations for safety improvements that could prevent future accidents.
Click here for more information about the NTSB.