FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Seventy passengers aboard a Fort Lauderdale flight to Washington, D.C., Wednesday were jolted but unharmed after an emergency landing caused by a fatal encounter with a bird.
Passengers of US Airways Flight 1121 reported hearing a loud thump and then smelling something burning moments after the 737 jet took off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at about 2 p.m.
Pariq Arsala,who was sitting near a wing, said after the thump, he saw a fireball shoot out of one of the engines. He too smelled something foul — or fowl, as it were.
"It smelled like burned car brakes. I knew immediately something was wrong," he said in a telephone interview. "Everyone remained calm even after the pilot said we had a bird strike."
The pilot circled over the Atlantic before landing safely at the airport. Passengers applauded.
US Airways spokesman Derek Hanna said the bird strike apparently blew out one of the engines. Officials were still examining the plane for further damage.
Among the passengers was Sun Sentinel sports reporter Harvey Fialkov, who was heading to cover Thursday's match between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals. He was texting his wife as the plane made its return.
"It was scary. You always hear about birds causing crashes, and in this case there was no Capt. Sully," he said, referring to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the heroic US Airways pilot who landed his craft safely in the Hudson River following a bird strike in 2009.
Flight 1121 passengers were being re-booked on other flights late Wednesday.
Arsala wondered if the airline would compensate passengers for their fright.
"Maybe they can give us the bird for dinner," he joked.
Copyright © 2010, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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