Front page news: Thai jet survives major mishap - a bird strike

The Kathmandu Post
Nepal’s National Newspaper
Vol. IV No. 234 Thursday, October 10, 1996

Thai jet survives major mishap

By a Post Reporter

Thai jet survives major mishap - a bird strike KATHMANDU, Oct 9 — A Thai Airways jet carrying 228 passengers and crew narrowly escaped a major mishap when it slammed into a group of vultures while preparing to take off from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Wednesday.

Flight TG-312 bound for Bangkok was already speeding on the runway for takeoff when a group of vultures struck the Airbus A-300-600 jet, eyewitnesses said.

No injuries were reported in the accident though five dead vultures were recovered from the site of impact, airport authorities said.

The Thai jet was lightly damaged by the force of the impact. Officials said the jet’s engine fan blades were damaged and the area just above the pilot’s cockpit window was stained with blood.

My Take Off


I felt the “bump” and thought something was wrong. I knew something was wrong when the left engine stopped running. Then the pilot said “ladies and gentlemen we have an emergency situation and will be returning to the airport.”

It was amazing how different people handled the same situation. What the article does not mention is that two people were taken to the hospital with stress/heart/breathing problems. On the other hand, a guy with dreadlocks and headphones slept through it.

As for myself, I was pumped and planning contingencies! I kept thinking of the cartoons I had seen in which the cartoon character jumps out of the plane just before it crashes and walks away fine. But in reality, with the turbulence bouncing us around pretty bad, which at the time we did not know was turbulence, I honestly thought we were goners.

The next day, while waiting for our replacement plane, I made a good chunk of money selling copies of this article to the rest of the passengers who failed to get them for free from their hotel. Some Australians got really mad at me for “profiting from other’s miseries.” It did no good to tell them that 1) I was on the plane and 2) many people, were grateful that I had the papers to sell because it was something that they wanted to keep. I got my copy of the paper signed by the flight crew. (See scan at top of page.)

The article downplays it, but we could have been in big trouble had the pilot tried to abort the takeoff. See this video as just on example. And unlike that runway there is a cliff at the end of the runway in Kathmandu! Bottom line, it was the split second decision to still take off that allowed the headline to read “Thai jet survives major mishap.”

After impact, the Thai pilot acted swiftly and continued with the take-off procedure. Seven minutes after becoming airborne, he turned the jet around and made a perfect landing back at TIA. The Thai later cancelled the flight.

Though none of the passengers and crew were hurt in the mishap, the incident illustrates the serious bird hazard at TIA, the nations’ only international airport.

TIA general manager Hari Bhakta Shrestha told The Kathmandu Post that bird hazards are a constant threat at this time of year because the vultures flock to the airport grounds to feed on TIA’s abundant supply of earthworms.

“The worms come out of the ground and die on the runway. This attracts the birds,” he said. “We do try to keep the birds away but it is practically impossible to shoo all of them away from the airport area. Besides, the proximity of garbage dumping sites also attract the birds to the runway.”

Wednesday’s bird-hit could have been avoided if the TIA control tower had heeded the advice of an Indian Airlines pilot who was next in line for take-off.

Twenty minutes after the Thai jet returned to land, Indian Airlines flight IC 814 took off.

The following communication exchange between the IA pilot and tower could be heard over FM radio as it cleared the valley airspace:

IA pilot: You should do something to improve flight safety here.

Tower: Thank you, your suggestion has been noted

IA pilot: But you shouldn’t have allowed the (Thai) aircraft to take off. I had warned you there were birds there. You shouldn’t have allowed the plane to take off.

Tower: It will be better if you notify the Department of Civil Aviation. Anyway your complaint has been noted.

IA pilot: Don’t you have cartridges (blank gun cartridges to scare the birds away) here? I will send some from India if you don’t have it.

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