Plane hits deer at Charlotte's airport, forces emergency landing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Federal Aviation Administration told Channel 9 that the National Transportation Safety Board was sent to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to examine the plane that hit a deer while on departure just before noon on Wednesday, FAA officials said.

The flight was forced to turn around and abort the flight to Gulfport, Mississippi.

[IMAGES: Plane hits deer during takeoff]

FAA officials said that an American Eagle CRJ 700 plane, operated by PSA Airlines returned to the airport after declaring an emergency after it apparently struck a deer while taking off.

Flight 5320, heading to Gulfport, hit the animal while taking off from runway 36 center around 11:45 a.m.

Diane Muellar was on the flight.

“Oh yeah. We heard the thud when we hit the deer. We didn't know what it was, but we did hear the noise when we hit the deer,” Muellar said.

From Chopper 9 Skyzoom, the plane could be seen trailing a vapor stream from the right wing as it circled back to land.

Passengers told Channel 9 that once airborne, they made a pass over the airport so officials on the ground could visually check the damage.

All the while, passengers heard calm assurances from the flight crew.

“In all honestly, for a flier who is on planes every week, they did a great job,” Muellar said.

After it landed safely, emergency crews surrounded the plane. Officials said there was a fuel leak, and crews sprayed the plane with foam.

Meanwhile, other planes were stopped as the airport handled the emergency.

Passengers, including Greg Velz, snapped photos as they watched from the tarmac.

American Airlines said that all 44 passengers were evacuated from the plane and taken by bus back to the terminal. Nobody was injured.

“They all looked professional. They all knew what they were doing,” Velz said.

The runway was closed for several hours and officials were able to tow the plane from the runway around 2 p.m.

The passengers were placed on another flight.

Air traffic control detail midair emergency

Channel 9 listened to the tower controllers and pilot as they examined the damage to the plane.

Crews shifted other aircraft so the jet could make an emergency landing while it was leaking fuel.

[9 INVESTIGATES: Charlotte's airport 9th-worst in world for wildlife strikes]

In the air traffic control recordings, the midair emergency unfolded from the very moment the pilot learned he hit something while taking off.

“Did you hit something on the runway?” the control tower is heard asking.

“No, we had a loud bang. We're coming back,” the pilot said.

As the pilot turned around it, was confirmed.

“We had an aircraft hit a deer on the runway,” the control tower said.

With 44 passengers and crew on board, other pilots helped examine the aircraft.

“Fly by to see if there is any damage that you all can see from our deer,” the pilot said.

“You are showing, you're trailing some type of vapor off the right hand side,” the tower control said.

That vapor was jet fuel, according to Channel 9's aviation expert.

Chopper 9 captured the plane descending onto the runway leaking a white stream of fuel from the right side

From Chopper 9, dents could be seen in the wing from the impact of the deer.

“Have the fire trucks advise us if there is any leaking fuel or anything, and our plan is to evacuate,” the pilot said.

Controllers created a plan to land safely.

“Airport is shifting around because of the airport emergency,” tower control said.

Fire trucks lined the runway and sprayed the plane with foam to prevent a fire.

“We're going to evacuate at this position,” the pilot said.

Channel 9 watched as passengers walked down the steps, and everyone made it out safely

An aviation expert told Channel 9 this was a dangerous situation, and the pilot made the right call.

American Airlines released the following statement regarding the incident:

"American Airlines flight 5320, operated by PSA Airlines, hit a deer upon takeoff from Charlotte Douglas International Airport at approximately noon. It was a CRJ-700 with 44 passengers and 4 crew on board headed to Gulfport, Mississippi (GPT). The airplane came immediately back to the airport and landed safely. There was fuel leaking from the aircraft, so passengers deplaned on the runway and fire trucks did hose the plane down. The passengers have been bused back to the terminal and will get a new aircraft."

Safety and security are CLT’s top priority, and the Airport considers every animal strike to be a serious one. The Airport recognizes the importance of the Wildlife Hazard Management Program. In furtherance of safety and security, on February 3 the Airport issued a Request for Information regarding perimeter fence enhancements. One of the improvements will increase the height of the fence, reducing the potential for unauthorized access.

Airport finds no opening for deer

Crews inspecting the airport perimeter were unable to find an opening in the fence that a deer could slip through, airport officials said Thursday.

Nonetheless, a deer made its way onto a Charlotte Douglas International Airport runway Wednesday. It collided with an American Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing minutes later.

AA5320 struck the deer just before noon Wednesday.

The plane had damage to its right wing and made an emergency landing. Fire crews doused it with foam to prevent a fire from kicking up.

None of the 44 passengers on board were injured.

National Transportation and Safety Board officials were on scene Thursday, according to an Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson.

An NTSB spokesperson told Eyewitness News that as of Thursday, the agency was gathering information but had not launched an investigation.

Charlotte airport releases statement on recent changes regarding wildlife

Charlotte airport officials released a statement on how it manages its Wildlife Hazard Management Program and has taken the following actions:

  • 2011 – The Airport created a full-time wildlife management coordinator. All Airport Operations officers were trained in mitigation techniques and receive annual training.
  • 2013 – The Airport contracted with a qualified airport wildlife biologist and conducted a wildlife hazard assessment.
  • 2014 – The Airport received the assessment recommendations and submitted those findings to the FAA for acceptance.
  • 2015 – The FAA completed final acceptance of the Airport's updated assessment.
  • 2016 – The FAA approved the Airport's updated Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, which included changes to the perimeter fence by 2020.
  • 2017 – On February 3, the Airport issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Perimeter Fence Enhancements, which will increase the height of the fence to ten feet and include a perimeter intrusion detection system. Based on current responses the Aviation Department has received to date, we believe CLT will be on the leading edge of emerging best practices for perimeter security.

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport utilizes the following measures for Wildlife Hazard Management:

  • Habitat modification, including removal of vegetation and other things that attract wildlife.
  • Non-lethal and lethal measures, including use of exclusionary devices (non-lethal).
  • Daily patrols to disperse any wildlife found on the airfield.
  • Use of depredation permits issued at the state and federal level. The Airport follows best management practices and guidelines as required by state and federal government permits.

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