No, it was not one of Santa’s reindeer that cause an American Airlines regional jet to make an emergency landing. It was just a regular whitetail that the plane hit during takeoff around noon on Wednesday. The American Eagle CRJ-700 was on a taking off out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport reroute to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi.
After the emergency landing, all 44 people made it out safely. The plane however was leaking fuel and was quickly pulled from service.
The Charlotte observer reported the following about the incident:
“We had a loud bang, we’re coming back,” someone who appears to be a pilot tells an air traffic controller, in a recording from the Charlotte Douglas control tower.
“OK, we think you hit – somebody that was passing said it was a deer,” the air traffic worker replies, then gives the plane directions to return.
“Say that again? I’ve got a bunch, a bunch of adrenaline here,” the crew member replies.
A few minutes later, the crew got the damage assessment from the ground.
“5320, you are showing you’re trailing some kind of vapor or something off the right wing,” an air traffic worker can be heard telling the flight crew. “We copy and we understand,” the flight crew replies a moment later.
Charlotte Douglas spokeswoman Lee Davis said the airport will evaluate how the deer got on the runway as part of its wildlife management plan. Surrounded by over 19 miles of barbed wire-topped perimeter fencing, Charlotte Douglas is also ringed by thousands of acres of wooded land conducive to deer.
Wildlife strikes aren’t rare at Charlotte’s airport, but they don’t usually cause damage. The FAA had 47 reports of wildlife strikes at Charlotte Douglas in the first four months of 2016, the most recent period available. Almost all of them were collisions with small birds or bats, though a coyote and a raccoon were also struck on Charlotte’s runways last year.
Wednesday’s incident was the sixth deer vs. plane collision at Charlotte Douglas since 1994, according to the FAA. The last time a deer collision was reported at the airport, FAA records show, was in October 2010. A US Airways Boeing 737 struck a white-tailed deer, causing minor damage to the plane.
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