Two planes have been turned around for emergency landings in as many days in Queensland after bird strikes risked the safety of passengers on board a Virgin Australia flight today, and an AirAsia flight yesterday.
Last night, an AirAsia flight from the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur was grounded in Brissy, after passengers saw sparks coming from the engine.
The airline reckons a bird strike caused the engine fault, saying they found two sets of bird remains on the runway.
Today, a flight from Brisbane to the Whitsundays was struck by a bird shortly after take-off, forcing the pilot to land the plane back at Brisbane Airport to be surveyed by engineers.
They were concerned the bird may have hit the windscreen.
Virgin Australia said the landing was “in line with standard operating procedures“. The passengers were assigned a new flight, and the plane declared fit for take-off.
According to a report released this year by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, there was a massive increase in 2014-15 in the amount of bird strikes in high capacity operations. In the decade to 2015, bird strikes rose 47%, although the ATSB think that’s probably just due to an exponential increase in the number of high capacity flights taken over the period.
All up, between 2006 and 2015, 16,069 bird strikes were reported to the bureau, which kinda sounds like a lot.
But still, some people are a bit suss about the AirAsia engine failure explanation, including Strategic Aviation Solutions‘ Neil Hansford, who reckons the bird strike theory is pretty rich considering airports spend so much dosh keeping birds away from the air strip.
“If I look at the engine here, there’s blades missing, which I find a little suspicious, and I also find suspicious the fact that the airline is saying that they’ve found carcasses on the runway.
“AirAsia would have had no access to the runway. That would have been something determined by Gold Coast Airports.
“I don’t know how a spokesperson from AirAsia in Kuala Lumpur would know there were two birds because the airport wouldn’t be rushing to tell anybody what the situation is.
“The maintenance of a bird-free environment on airport land is the responsibility of the airport.“
But Phil Shaw, who works for the people paid to shoo those pesky birds away, Avisure, confirmed that remnants of a bird had been found: “There [are] remnants found on the runway, from the evidence so far it would suggest it is very likely to be a bird strike of some sort.”
The Bureau will be looking into the AirAsia plane’s engine failure, but not into the Virgin flight. We can expect something definitive in November.