A Spirit Airlines flight was evacuated following a bird strike that caused a fire. The incident is a good example of the safety measures in place in modern aviation.
On Saturday, Spirit Airlines flight 3044 left its gate at Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On the flight’s takeoff run one of the engines of the Airbus A320neo ingested a bird, causing damage and sparking a fire. The crew was able to stop the plane and get it evacuated with only two people reporting minor injuries.
As Business Insider reports, the plane was carrying 102 passengers and seven crew. The airport itself shut down for hours as the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigated the incident.
The Aviation Herald reports that the pilots rejected the takeoff at a slow 60 knots and requested fire equipment on the scene as a fire bell rung on the flight deck.
Videos of the incident are hitting social media, with one showing what things were like inside of the plane:
Passengers can be heard shouting that there’s a fire while others remove baggage from the overhead bins like the plane just parked at a gate. Everyone is ignoring crew instructions. The flight crew is trained to get everyone off of the plane quickly and safely. They’ll tell you to leave your baggage behind and it’s easy to see why as it slows evacuation down. Fire crews had the plane put out before the plane was fully evacuated.
A report from WPLG Local 10 suggests that the plane narrowly avoided tragedy because twinjets cannot takeoff on a single engine, but that’s not necessarily true. Pilots are trained to continue takeoff if an engine failure happens at a speed that is too fast to abort the takeoff. Airbus notes that a twinjet like the A320 can takeoff with a failed engine, but with reduced performance and requiring a longer length of runway.
Spirit Airlines issued a statement on the incident:
“Spirit Airlines flight 3044 from Atlantic City to Fort Lauderdale encountered what is believed to be a large bird while accelerating for takeoff in Atlantic City, which entered one of the plane’s engines.
The captain braked safely and brought the plane to a stop, received an indication of damage to the engine, and ordered an evacuation in accordance with our standard procedures.
All Guests and Team Members evacuated the aircraft and were bussed back to the terminal. We commend our crew for handling the situation swiftly and safely.
Our Guests will receive full refunds, a future travel voucher and the option of travelling to Fort Lauderdale on another plane tonight.”
Pictures show that the engine lost a fan blade and the cowling took some damage.
This incident is a good reminder that flight crews are trained for these very scenarios. Bird strikes aren’t the end of the world; just listen to your flight crew and you’ll be fine.