Bird Strike Forces AirTran Plane to Return to Orlando Airport

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David Spinks, flickr

An AirTran Airways flight headed to Charlotte from Orlando International Airport had to make a quick turn around Monday night after a bird strike took out the plane's weather radar. It was the second bird strike of the day, the other occuring earlier to a plane in Washington D.C.

"We were right in the middle of take off and heard a couple of loud thumps," passenger Joe Thompson tells the local NBC news station in Orlando.

The airline confirmed the thumps that Thompson heard was the sound of the Boeing 717 as it struck a flock of birds. The flight had 114 passengers and five crew members on board, but no one was hurt.

"We hit some birds in take off – it had hit some instruments up front," says Thompson. "We lost radar, it was kind of a jerky flight from there, it seemed like. Everyone seemed strained."

Thompson described the 18-minute ride back to Orlando International as "tense."

AirTran spokesman Christopher White tells the news outlet the flight could have continued on safely without the radar, but the pilots did not want to take any risks with a line of storms in the flight path.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the best decision was to go back to the airport, get it replaced and get folks on the way," says White.

The plane's nose was fixed, and the flight continued to Charlotte three hours later.

The birds were thought to be ducks, but the airline did not confirm.

Also yesterday, a Continental Airlines flight bound for Houston from Washington's Reagan National Airport made an emergency landing at Washington Dulles International after a bird was sucked into one of its engines. No one was injured in the incident.

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