Let’s face it, seagulls are pretty damn annoying in the best of times. Now, we have an even better reason to dislike “sky rats.”
On May 18, 2016, a B-52H Stratofortress with the 5th Bomb Wing was forced to abort its takeoff run. According to a report by NBCNews.com, the plane later burst into flames and was a total loss. The reason behind the destroyed plane was finally incovered by an Air Force investigation.
According to the investigation report, seagulls killed a BUFF – and it’s not the first time the military’s lost a plane to birds.
The accident report released by Global Strike Command noted that the crew observed the birds during their takeoff run, and the co-pilot felt some thumps — apparent bird strikes. Then, “the [mishap pilot] and [mishap co-pilot] observed engine indications for numbers 5, 6, and 7 ‘quickly spooling back’ from the required takeoff setting. The MP also observed high oil pressure indications on the number 8 engine and a noticeable left-to-right yawing motion. Accelerating through approximately 142 knots, the [mishap pilot] simultaneously announced and initiated aborted takeoff emergency procedures.”
The crew then tried to deploy a drag chute. The chute – and the plane’s brakes – both failed, though, and that caused the B-52 to go off the runway. The crew carried out emergency shutdown procedures and then got out of the plane. One suffered minor injuries, but the other six on board were not injured.
Bird strikes on takeoff have happened before. One of the most notorious bird strike incidents took place in September 1995 when a Boeing E-3B Sentry was hit by two Canada geese on takeoff from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. The plane crashed after briefly going airborne, killing all 24 personnel on board.
Another one took place in 2012, when Air Force Two absorbed a bird strike, according to a report by the London Daily Mail.
According to the Air Force Safety Center’s Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard Division, the Air Force has recorded 108,670 bird or wildlife strikes from the start of Fiscal Year 1985 to the end of Fiscal Year 2014. The BASH Division also noted that from the start of Fiscal Year 1993 to the end of Fiscal Year 2014, there were 34 Class A mishaps, which included 16 destroyed aircraft and 29 fatalities.
In short, those fine feathered friends are anything but friendly when it comes to sharing the skies with the Air Force.