By Allison Bybee email
WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Blame it on the birds. Officials say the pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 reported a "double bird strike" less than a minute after takeoff. A passenger says, "I don't know what happened. There was a explosion over the plane and we had to make an emergency landing in the water. They did a phenomenal job getting everybody out."
Witnesses say they saw the plane hit a flock of birds, killing an engines and forcing the jet into the icy Hudson River.
Local Retired American Airlines Pilot, Ted Clispy, flew commercially for 32 years. He says the engines are no match for birds, "The engines act like big vacuum cleaners and anything that's out there is going to be sucked in."
Experts say the vast majority of collisions with birds occur at low altitude. Jet engines are particularly vulnerable during takeoff when they are turning at very high speeds. Clispy says, "They probably had a lot to worry about. A lot of things going on in a hurry."
The Bird Strike Committee USA says annually bird strikes cause $600 million worth of damage to aircrafts. In the past 17 years, 82,000 bird strikes have been reported (Read Report).
Clispy says he's lost engines to seagulls in the past and pilots do their best to save everyone on board in a situation like this, "A bird strike like that, they don't teach curriculum because it is so rare."