Alaska Airlines officers receive awards

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Alaska Airlines Capt. Steve Cleary of Federal Way, Wash., and First Officer Michael Hendrix of Seattle were honored with Superior Airmanship Award Aug. 18 by the Air Line Pilots Association International for their handling of a bird strike during takeoff at Sitka last year. Cleary and Hendrix were piloting Alaska Airlines Flight 68, a Boeing 737-400 service from Sitka to Seattle Aug. 8, 2010, with a full load of 134 passengers, five crewmembers, and a full cargo hold. As they accelerated down the runway at 100 knots, Cleary saw an eagle directly in the path ahead. Seconds later, at 130 knots (150 miles per hour) the eagle smashed into the left engine, which exploded and burst into flames. The aircraft lurched left and Cleary started emergency procedures to abort the takeoff and maintain control of the yawing 737-400. Cleary fought to stop the airplane and Hendrix kept him apprised of the aircraft’s speed and distance to the end of the runway. The heavy airliner stopped at the very end of the 6,500-foot runway.