SEATTLE - More than 250 Hong Kong-bound passengers spent Thursday night in SeaTac hotels after a bird strike forced their flight to land shortly after takeoff.
Passengers aboard Delta flight 281 felt and heard a loud thud as the plane lifted off.
Kaylie Anderson, from Salt Lake City, saw fire erupt from the back of the Airbus A300’s right engine. “We were taking off and there was a huge noise and I looked out and there was this big burst of flame,” she said. “I looked at my sister and I said 'did you see that'?"
The captain circled the jet over the Olympic Mountains with the plane’s landing gear down, to burn fuel. The plane was fully loaded with fuel for its' 14-hour flight.
Passengers were told a red tail hawk flew into the front landing gear panel and then went through the right engine.
Minutes after the flight landed at SeaTac with only one working engine, hundreds of passengers were buzzing about what they saw.
“I heard a loud noise,” said Rhonda Roberts. “It was a big one! I mean it was loud and just scary."
“It was almost as if we hit, like, a speed bump,” Sam Stinocher said. “I thought maybe when the pilot said we hit something, I thought it hit the landing gear because that's what it felt like."
KIRO 7 investigated what SeaTac airport crews are doing about bird strikes.
More than 390 strikes happened at the airport in a five-year period, so a full-time wildlife biologist tracks birds, detracts birds
and even traps birds.
Workers caught 13 red tail hawks around the airport in a single day last year.
Passenger Michael Carter, a jet engine technician, could tell immediately on board the flight that the engine compressor failed because of a bird strike.
“I told the flight attendant 'are we going back?' She said 'no we're going to keep going,' and I said 'no, we are turning back'!"