A Delhi-bound SpiceJet Boeing 737 aircraft made an emergency landing at the Patna airport after a bird hit one of its engines. The plane, with 185 passengers and six crew members, landed safely five minutes after take-off from Patna after the pilots shut down the affected engine and alerted air traffic control.
Civil aviation regulator DGCA has confirmed that a bird hit led to the failure of Engine 1 on the Patna-Delhi SpiceJet aircraft, which was forced to make an emergency landing at Bihta Airforce Station in Patna after its left wing caught fire. “During take-off, the cockpit crew suspected a bird hit one of the engines.
As a precautionary measure and as per SOP, the pilot shut down the affected engine and decided to return to Patna,” the airline said. In a similar incident, a Delhi-bound IndiGo was forced to return to Guwahati airport due to a bird hit on Sunday morning.
The aircraft was at 1,600 feet when its left engine suffered a bird hit. The pilot shut down the engine according to the checklist and returned to Guwahati. Meanwhile a SpiceJet flight, going to Jabalpur, returned to Delhi due to issues with its cabin pressure. The problem was detected as the aircraft was climbing to its cruise altitude.
The pilots suspected a bird hit, but they continued the climb as the sensors inside the aircraft didn't give any indication of engine fire. It was after the cabin crew noticed smoke billowing out from the engine that the pilots decided to turn back.
Bird hits are fairly common as airports are situated in urban areas. The case is higher for India as most of the cities suffer from improper waste management and open drains attracting stray birds. According to data from DGCA, there were 1,466 bird strike incidents and 29 animal strike incidents in 2021 across Indian airports. The DGCA, in a 2018 circular, had said that the presence of wildlife on and in vicinity of an airport poses a “serious threat” to aircraft operational safety.
While most of the bird hits happen with the aircraft’s body leading to minor damage, if the engine is damaged due to this, it may lead to smoke and fire as fuel will leak out. In such cases pilots shut down the impacted engine and land at the closest airport. Modern passenger aircraft are built to operate even with a single engine.