American Airlines Regional Plane Returns To Runway After Striking Deer

Image courtesy of FlightAlerts

Occasionally, we’ll hear of a plane returning to the airport after colliding with a bird or birds upon takeoff –including one incident that resulted in a two-foot dent in a nose of an aircraft — but you don’t often hear about flights returning after other animal strikes. Yet, that’s what happened today when an American Airlines regional jet struck a deer on the runway and began leaking fuel. 

The Charlotte Observer reports that the American Eagle regional flight carrying 44 passengers declared an emergency and returned to Charlotte Douglas International Airport after striking a deer around noon today.

The plane, which was headed to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi, began leaking fuel shortly after taking to the air.

“5320, you are showing you’re trailing some kind of vapor or something off the right wing,” an air traffic worker told the flight crew in a recording from the Charlotte Douglas tower, the Observer reports.

The plane then circled the airport while crews investigated the runway for damage.

Upon landing, fire crews met the plane and sprayed it with a flame retardant. Passengers deplaned on the runway and were then bused to the terminal, a spokesperson tells the Observer. The plane was then towed away for inspection.

A rep for the Charlotte Douglas Airport, which is surrounded by thousand of acres of wooded land, tells the Observer that it will evaluate how the deer got on the runway despite a perimeter circled with barbed wire-topped fencing.

While animal-versus-plane strikes aren’t common, they do happen: The Observer, citing Federal Aviation Administration data, reports that in 2015 birds were involved in about 96% of reported strikes; terrestrial mammals accounted for 1.6%; bats lead to 2.3% of strikes; and reptiles in 0.3% of incidents.