United flight out of Spokane strikes bird diverts to Seattle

January 11, 2019

A United Airlines jet that took off Friday morning from Spokane struck a bird and then faced visibility problems at the airport, prompting pilots to divert to Seattle, an airport spokesman said.

Todd Woodard, spokesman for Spokane International Airport, said he wasn’t sure exactly where the bird struck the plane, but no one was injured and the collision apparently had no effect on the airplane.

A passenger on the plane shared a cell phone picture with KHQ showing a bloody cockpit windshield.

The 5:30 a.m. departure had been headed to Denver prior to the collision, Woodard said.

“We had low-visibility conditions this morning,” Woodard said. “Instead of circling and waiting for conditions to improve, they decided to divert to Seattle where visibility was not an issue and where passengers could be more efficiently accommodated.”

Woodard said he did not know what kind of bird the plane struck.

“In my memory,” said Woodard who has worked at the airport for just shy of 24 years, “we have never had a plane brought down by a bird strike.”

In a statement from United, the airlines also did not say where the bird struck the plane.

“Shortly after takeoff, United Airlines flight 812 from Spokane, WA to Denver experienced a bird strike and safely diverted to Seattle. Customers will continue their journey to Denver this morning,” the statement said.

Woodard said the airport has averaged 37 reported bird strikes a year over the past three years.

“During that time, only one to two strikes per yer resulted in damage to the aircraft,” he said.

Some 34 bird strike were reported in 2018.

“To the best of our knowledge there have been no aircraft accidents or incidents with injuries related to a bird strike on any flight to or from” Spokane’s airport, he said.

Woodard said it is his understanding that Fairchild Air Force Base, which has more area ponds that would be attractive to waterfowl, have more instances of bird-aircraft problems.

The Air Force employs falconers who use their trained birds of prey and bird dogs to keep large birds from making the runways home.

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