On Sunday morning, an American Airlines flight headed from Columbus to Pheonix was forced to make an emergency landing after a bird strike disabled an engine and caused the plane to catch fire.

At 7:43 a.m., a Boeing 737-800 took off from Ohio’s John Glenn Columbus International Airport carrying 173 people. At about 8 a.m., a flock of geese struck the plane, causing a fire to break out on the right side of the plane and forcing it to turn around and go back to the airport.

“Apparently we struck a flock of geese and the engine started making real loud ‘clonk, clonk, clonk’ noises,” said passenger John Fisher. “They eventually turned the engine off and turned around and went back to the airport.”

Another passenger spoke to NBC about her experience on the flight, saying she could hear “people on the plane crying” after the collision.

“My heart just broke honestly for so many people on this plane, I could hear them crying and I just wanted us all to be okay,” the passenger said.

The aftermath of the bird strike was caught on video by people both on the plane and on the ground, showing flames coming from the plane’s right wing.


The aircraft landed safely back at the Columbus airport at 8:22 a.m., with no injuries reported.

In a statement after the plane landed, American Airlines said, “The flight landed normally and taxied safely to the gate under its own power. The aircraft was taken out of service for maintenance and our team is working to get customers back on their way to Phoenix.”

Although an engine fire was initially thought to have caused the aircraft to return to the airport, John Glenn International Airport posted a statement on Twitter, clarifying that the “aircraft experienced mechanical issues, not an engine fire.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, large birds weighing four or more pounds are one of the most dangerous elements of nature for pilots.

“There is no aircraft engine certified to ingest a large bird without shutting down,” the FAA stated in a resource paper.

According to the FAA, bird strikes may be becoming more common as bird populations increase and planes become quieter.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, bird strikes have been the cause of 350 deaths throughout the history of U.S. passenger flight.

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