How A Bird Strike Brought Down An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 In 1988

How A Bird Strike Brought Down An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 In 1988

Sep 15, 2022 News by Gary Searing

A flock of speckled pigeons brought down an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737

Unlike the crash of US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009, when an Airbus A320 hit a flock of Canada geese when taking off from New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA), Ethiopia has its own birdstrike story that did not end as happily as “The Miracle on the Hudson.”

34 ago, on Thursday, September 15th, 1988, Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET604 crashed after its engines ingested a flock of speckled pigeons as it took off from Bahir Dar Airport (BJR) in the Amhara Region in Ethiopia.

A native of Sub-Saharan Africa, the speckled pigeon is not as large as a Canada goose. On average, it weighs between 7.7 and 13.7 ounces. When feeding large groups, it is more than capable of causing an engine failure in aircraft if enough of them are ingested into the engines.

The aircraft was less than a one-year-old Boeing 737-200 with the registration ET-AJA that had been delivered to Ethiopian Airlines On October 29, 1987. Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET604 was a regularly scheduled flight between Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD) and Asmara International Airport (ASM) in Eritrea, with a stop at Bahar Dar Airport (BJR) in the Amhara Region in Ethiopia.

At the time of the incident, the plane was carrying six crew members and 98 passengers. The first leg of the journey was uneventful, with the Boeing twinjet having no issues during its flight from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar. At 09:50, while starting the two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-17A’s for taxiing and takeoff from Bahir Dar, the crew told Bahir Dar Air Traffic Control (ATC) that to gain additional thrust, they were not going to use engine bleed air during the takeoff.

As the plane hurtled down the runway, passing the takeoff reject speed of V1, the crew saw a flock of speckled pigeons taking to the air on the plane’s left side. Seeing the imminent threat, the captain took over the controls from the first officer and pulled back on the yoke for takeoff. When the plane made contact with the flock of birds, it was traveling at 146 knots at 300 feet above the ground.

Following a series of loud bangs as the engines ingested the pigeons, the captain asked for gear up, and the first officer complied. With thrust not adequate following the birdstrike, the captain made a right turn away from Lake Tana and prepared for an emergency landing. During the initial 32 seconds after the birdstrike the aircraft had climbed to an altitude of 6,029 and increased its speed to 154 knots. The engines struggled to cope, and as the plane climbed, power to both engines was suddenly lost.

Now desperate to get the aircraft on the ground, the copilot pointed to a clear area slightly ahead of the plane to the right, and the captain decided to perform a gear-up landing. As the plane came into contact with the ground, it broke apart and caught fire, killing 35 of the 98 passengers. All six crew members escaped unharmed.

Now desperate to get the aircraft on the ground, the copilot pointed to a clear area slightly ahead of the plane to the right, and the captain decided to perform a gear-up landing. As the plane came into contact with the ground, it broke apart and caught fire, killing 35 of the 98 passengers. All six crew members escaped unharmed.

BYMARK FINLAY

Simple Flying

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