October 3, 2003 (by Lieven Dewitte) - An F-16 from the 419th Fighter Wing was forced to make an emergency landing after colliding with a large bird on Sept. 19. The incident occurred during an air-to-air combat training mission over the Utah Test and Training Range.
The bird impacted the radome and slid backwards below the canopy. Aircraft video used by pilots to capture lessons learned during training missions showed a bird similar in size and characteristics to a vulture.
Shortly after the strike, the pilot experienced a compressor stall on the aircraft, or a disruption in airflow to the engine, which resulted in a temporary loss of power. He declared an In Flight Emergency and immediately jettisoned two external fuel tanks to reduce the aircraft's weight in case of engine failure. Emergency response officials from Hill Air Force Base convened on the runway in anticipation of the disabled aircraft's arrival.
He continued performing the steps on his emergency checklist and completed a perfect landing on the Hill runway. Saving the Air Force millions in combat capability.
Similar incidents involving large birds that impact the canopy of the F-16 in flight have, in some case, penetrated the canopy and critically injured the pilot.
The 419th FW has sustained five bird strikes in fiscal year 2003 (which began Oct. 1, 2002). Air Force records indicate that there have been 275 reported bird strikes among active, Guard and Reserve units over the same period of time.
A board of safety officials will investigate the details and damage associated with the incident.