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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 6:30 PM) Philippine Airlines flight PR 191 suffered a bird strike before landing at Tacloban City airport Wednesday morning, initial reports said. None of the passengers was hurt, however.
The PAL aircraft carrying 94 passengers and crew was set for landing at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport runway 18 at 6:42 am when wild ducks surged into its path. Bits and pieces of the birds were seen scattered all over the runway after being sucked in by the two engines.
The pilot managed to land the A320 aircraft safely. Upon landing and unloading the passengers, technical crew inspected the engine for possible damage.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said PAL flight PR 191 had left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 domestic terminal at 5:45 am.
The return flight to Manila, PR 192 which was scheduled to depart at 7:30 am, was cancelled and passengers of that flight were flown to Manila on a new aircraft.
Migratory birds have been giving headaches to airline operators and pilots because of their presence near the runway. The birds are worrisome because of the possibility of a bird strike, when any one of them or part of the flock collides with airplanes flying in and out of the runway.
No fatalities have so far been reported in local bird strikes, except for costly maintenance and repairs and cancelled flights, according to PAL.
All the other local airplanes have experienced bird strikes over the years, but the damage is often negligible because local birds are smaller and lighter.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says 15 percent of bird strikes worldwide caused actual damage, which could mean $5 million if an engine is smashed up.
In 2008, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) recorded bird hits involving three international air carriers. The first of these accidents was in May 12, 2008 when a Cathay Pacific plane from Hong Kong collided with a bird while landing.
All over the country, the record jumped from 42 bird strikes in 2009 to 120 in 2010.
Airlines and pilots said they could pose danger to aircraft landing and taking off.
Migratory birds are often seen flying near the airport runway, hunting for their daily intake of insects, lizard and tiny fish at the artificial pond formed at the spot where the runway drainage system disgorges excess water on the way out to nearby canals outside the airport perimeter.
Bird strikes have been an aviation risk around the world, with one domestic flight in New York City miraculously surviving one such strike two years ago and landing on the Hudson River with no casualties. And in the country’s premier airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, it is one of the risk factors authorities constantly monitor, given the proximity of the three NAIA terminals to a natural bird sanctuary straddling the cities of Paranaque and Las Pinas.