Alaska Airways flight hits bear on runway throughout touchdown
Alaska Airlines Flight 66 came to Yakutat from Cordova when the flight crew saw two bears crossing the runway, according to a statement from Alaska Airlines.
“The nose landing gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left after the bears passed under the plane,” the airline said. The pilots then spotted a bear lying a few feet above the center of the runway while taxiing the Boeing 737-700 aircraft to park.
The aircraft’s left hood was damaged in the collision and maintenance technicians are currently working on repairing the aircraft. There were six passengers on the flight at the time, but no injuries were reported.
After being informed of the incident, airport maintenance and operations teams removed the bear’s carcass and took it to a warehouse, according to Sam Dapcevich, a public information officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game was contacted to ensure the proper disposal of the bear.
“It rarely happens that something like this happens,” Dapcevich told CNN. “I’ve been in Alaska my whole life and we’ve had planes that hit birds and other animals … but this is the first instance of a bear I’ve ever heard of.”
The airport is partially fenced. The airport’s emergency services are being trained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use pyrotechnics and vehicles to prevent animals from approaching the runway and disrupting flight operations, Dapcevich said.
The crews had previously seen two bears in the area and believed they were a bear and a cub. On the day of the incident, according to Dapcevich, the crews had not seen any wildlife during the snow removal.
Local photographer and biologist Robert Johnson said he was surprised by the incident. He went out to capture the scene after speaking to his neighbors who were passengers on the flight.
“It was an unusual event, at least a first in Alaska,” Johnson told CNN. “I’ve worked with bears up here for most of my adult life.”
In 1987 there was another unlikely wildlife collision with an Alaska Airlines plane – but that plane struck a fish.
An Alaska Airlines flight took off from Juneau when a large fish hit the Boeing 737-200 aircraft just behind the cockpit window. An eagle that had crossed paths with the flight had grabbed the fish in its talons.
“In doing so, the eagle either voluntarily released his meal or the quick turn tore it out of its clutches,” wrote Anchorage-based Alaska Airlines pilot Captain Mac af Uhr in a 2005 report by Alaska Airlines about the incident.
Dapcevich said it was too early to say what steps would be taken to prevent a rare incident like the bear collision from happening in the future.