Birds A Threat To Tulsa Aircraft

Thursday, January 15th 2009, 10:30 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Birds are a real hazard to aircraft even in Tulsa.  Several years ago, a Tulsa Police helicopter sustained significant damage after it hit a duck in flight.  The pilot landed safely.  It's on takeoff that a bird strike is the most dangerous because it can shut down the engines.       

The Tulsa Fire Department has a station just off the runway at Tulsa International.  Over the years, the firefighters have responded to several aircraft in trouble because they hit birds.

"We've had everything from a small Cessna up to an Airbus 319, which is just smaller than the one in New York," said Tulsa Fire Captain Ken Barton.

In every case, the planes in Tulsa have lost just one engine, and all have made it back around to land safely.  Birds are a constant threat to aircraft, in part because the large fields around airports are attractive to wildlife.

Thousands of bird strikes are reported each year, but the damage is usually not enough to cripple even a small plane, because they're built to withstand it.

The plane in New York remained intact even after landing in a river.

That was no surprise to Captain Barton, who says planes are so tough, firefighters use a special nozzle that can penetrate an airplane to spray water inside.

"They can go in and it will discharge agent through these holes without having to open up the aircraft," said Tulsa Fire Captain Ken Barton.

It's just one of the tools available to the firefighters at Station 51.

"When and if it does happen, we'll be ready," said Tulsa Fire Captain Ken Barton.

See pictures of aircraft damage caused by birds.