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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 10:30 pm | Partly Cloudy 52º


Jet Returns to Santa Barbara after Striking Geese

No injuries reported when flock foils Phoenix-bound flight

It was a routine departure Wednesday morning for a USAirways flight to Phoenix. But as the airplane took off from the Santa Barbara Airport promptly at 6:30 a.m., what happened next was anything but.

The landing gear was still down when regional carrier Mesa Air Flight 2920 flew “smack dab through a flock of geese,” a passenger told Noozhawk. The Bombardier CRJ700 with 53 people aboard flew in circles for about 20 minutes to burn off fuel and then requested a “precautionary” landing back at the airport. There were no injuries and the jet returned without incident, but airport emergency crews were on hand just in case.

Goleta businessman Don Gilman was aboard the plane.

“It was a beautiful, bright sunny morning,” he said. “But right after takeoff, we flew smack dab through a flock of geese. One hit the wing and another got wedged in the front landing gear. It was pretty spectacular.”

Tracy Lincoln, the airport’s operations manager, said an inspection revealed minor damage to the aircraft, which later was flown — empty — to a repair facility.

Morgan Durrant, a USAirways spokesman in Philadelphia, told Noozhawk that the jet was carrying a crew of four and 49 passengers. Lincoln said the passengers were rebooked on other flights throughout the day Wednesday, with the last traveler flying out about 4:30 p.m. “It was quite a disruption,” Durrant said.

Bird strikes are a significant aviation hazard, Lincoln said, and the Santa Barbara Airport has had its share of incidents over the years.

“We had 26 bird strikes in 2006, 19 in 2007, eight in 2008 and eight so far this year,” he said. Of the 2009 totals, however, he emphasized that four were dead birds found during regular runway inspections and it was assumed they had been struck by aircraft.

The airport has a number of procedures in place to reduce the danger, Lincoln said, including hazing and anti-perching measures. But the most effective deterrent has been the airport’s three-year tidal circulation project that has reduced the amount of standing water on airport property, which is adjacent to the Goleta Slough.

“Standing water attracts birds,” he said. “By working with the environmental community and the Goleta Slough management committee, we have increased the tidal circulation. With less standing water, you’re less attractive to the birds that are most dangerous.”

Gulls, raptors and Canadian geese are most commonly involved in incidents, according to Bird Strike Committee USA. A 12-pound Canada goose striking an aircraft going 150 mph at lift-off generates the force of a 1,000-pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet, the committee says.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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