An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 hit and killed a brown bear as it landed at Yakutat Airport in the far south-east of Alaska on Saturday evening. The left-hand engine was damaged after it struck the female sow bear but none of the passengers or crew were injured during the incident. A two-year-old cub was found uninjured nearby.
According to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, the runway had been cleared by airport workers just 10-minutes before the Alaska Airlines flight from Cordova came into land.
An onward flight to Juneau and then Seattle had to be cancelled because of the damaged sustained to the aircraft.
A preliminary investigation suggests the pilots of Alaska Airlines flight AS66 followed normal procedures. The aircraft landed in the hours of darkness and the flight crew only noticed the bears crossing the runway after the aircraft was already on the runway.
“The nose gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left side after the bears passed under the plane,” a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines explained.
“Our maintenance technicians are working to repair the plane, which will take a couple of days,” a statement from the airline continued.
The Anchorage Daily News reports that Yakutat airport is only partially enclosed by a fence and that workers have to undergo annual wildlife hazard training. Workers regularly clear the runway and surrounding area of wildlife by using vehicles to herd animals or pyrotechnics to scare them away.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.