The danger birds present to aircraft isn’t insignificant. The Air Force’s mightiest jets are far from immune from the danger posed by low-flying birds.
The military, in particular, takes the risk of bird strikes very seriously. It has led to the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program, which you can read all about in this previous piece of ours.
Birds pose an especially elevated risk to military aircraft flying at air shows because the aircraft are often operating at very low altitudes—deep in the high-risk zone for bird strikes—and at the edge of their performance envelopes where margins for recovery can be slim to none. And these strikes do happen. Just look at this Blue Angel F/A-18 Hornet ingesting a bird during its routine.
Here is a Crazy Shot Of A C-17 Ingesting A Big Bird On Takeoff At The Avalon Air Show
A USAF C-17A Globemaster III from March Air Reserve Base in California participated in the airshow. During its takeoff, airlifter’s outboard right wing engine sucked in a big bird that was flying low over the runway.
The ingestion resulted in a loud bang and large fireball prior to the C-17 crew executing a rejected takeoff procedure. The C-17 safely came to a stop on the runway moments later.
The C-17 involved in the incident, tail number 05-5140, hadn’t flown the following day so it may have received some damage or required more detailed inspections before it could take to the skies again.
Aviation photographer Mitchell Getson took the awesome shot seen at the top of this story. Here’s his firsthand account of the incident:
“Throughout the day there had been birds congregating around the end of the active. A RNZAF C-130 almost had a strike with a large flock of birds early in the day’s displays. 05-5140 lined up for departure, it commenced it’s takeoff roll and ingested a large bird into the 4th engine (two flew across, only one was ingested). The crew immediately rejected the takeoff roll and returned to the apron. The C-17 didn’t fly again for the remainder of the show.”