The pilots of a Cebu Pacific Air flight bound for Cagayan de Oro saved the lives of their passengers and crew when they decided to return to Manila after birds stuck the plane during takeoff early Tuesday morning.
Airport officials said bird strike occurs when birds, bats and all flying animals collide with an aircraft, hitting the nose, windshield, leading edges such as wings and tails, or ingested by the engines.
One of the affected CEB passengers was former presidential spokesman Harry Roque who narrated the incident via his Facebook account.
Roque stated in his post: “On board (flight) 5J 381 from NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) bound for Cagayan de Oro. There was a delay in take-off, then an explosion of sorts, smell of smoke and flight now returning to Manila. Cebu Pac needs to take better care of its aircrafts (sic) and its passengers. Paging Sec. Art Tugade and CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines)! Riding public need your help!”
He also said “PS: We’ve landed at NAIA and we were informed that there was a “bird strike”. Challenge is how Cebu Pac will deal with us now. Final PS: Cebu Pac transferred us to a new plane. Flight was scheduled to depart at 3 and arrive at 5 am. Its 540 am and were still waiting for buses to arrive.”
According to CEB Corporate Communications director Charo Logarta Lagamon, all the passengers were safe, but the damaged Airbus 320 had to be replaced.
Logarta said in an ABS-CBN News report that the replacement plane left Manila around 7:20 a.m. and landed in its destination at 8:30 a.m.
The Manila International Airport Authority had formed a team to get rid of all birds at the grassy portion of the major runway of NAIA that pose dangers to aircraft.
The move came followed complaints from airline operators and pilots about the presence of birds, especially egrets and pigeons, looking for food on NAIA runway 06/24.
MIAA assistant division chief for operations Alvin Candelaria said these birds could pose danger because of the possibility of bird strike, when any one of them or part of the flock would collide with aircraft’s engine flying in and out of the airport.
Candelaria said migratory birds were easy to rid off, but the pigeons were the most hard to handle.
He said there was an existing law preventing residents living near the airport not to raise pigeons about eight kilometer radius but apparently it was being ignored by community leaders in the area.
In the previous years, officers and members of the Airline Operators Council operating at the NAIA had called the attention of MIAA to do something about the birds.
Candelaria said personnel from the Airport Ground Operations Safety Division said the birds came mostly from the surrounding lagoons and ponds near the airport which used to be their sanctuary, but now being developed into a real estate.
The AOC is worried that bird strike incidents at the airport might increase, noting that in 2010, there were 23 instances of bird strikes at the premier airport, up from nine in 2009.
All over the country, the record jumped from 42 bird strikes in 2009 to 120 in 2010.
In 2008, the NAIA recorded bird hits involving three international air carriers. The first of these accidents was in May 12, 2008 when a Cathay Pacific airlines plane, arriving from Hong Kong, collided with a bird while landing.
So far, there had been no fatalities involved in local bird strikes, except for costly maintenance and repairs and cancelled flights.
All the other local airplanes have encountered bird strikes over the years, but the damages were minimal because local birds are smaller and lighter.