A Southwest Airlines flight heading to Baltimore returned to Nashville International Airport Monday morning after the plane encountered multiple bird strikes.
The captain declared an emergency and returned Flight 3387 to Nashville. The plane, which left at 6:25 a.m., was able to land safely and was back at the gate at 7 a.m.
There were 110 passengers on the flight. They were rerouted to other flights.
FAA records show that planes leaving Nashville have hit birds 32 times this year.
On an average day, some 380 planes take off at the Nashville airport. On rare occasions, an unsuspecting bird can wreak havoc.
"We have just over 4,200 acres here, so we deal with lots of wildlife, from birds to coyotes to deer and rabbits," said Shannon Sumrall, spokeswoman for Nashville International Airport. "You name it, they're here."
It's the birds that occasionally cause planes to turn around and come back. Passengers on Monday morning's flight said they heard it.
"There was a thumping sound on the left-hand side of the plane and there was a vibration," said Bruce Winterburn, a passenger on the flight from Pulaski, TN. "We found out later that was when they shut the engine down."
Officials with the airport take this problem seriously.
The airport has set up 15 air cannons around the runways, delivering an obnoxious noise.
"Once we turn it on, it fills the bladder up," said an airport operations specialist. "We have this timing device on the side that we can adjust it form every 45 seconds to 15 minutes."
The cannons are portable so they can be moved anywhere on airport property that there's a trouble spot. Airport officials also have to move the cannons because birds in an area get used to the sound.
Perhaps the most high profile case of bird sabotage occurred in 2009 when Capt. Sully Sullenberger safely landed a jet in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of wild geese.
Fortunately, most incidents only wind up doing minor damage, like on Monday morning.
"It was fairly uneventful," said Winterburn. "Everyone on the plane seemed fairly relaxed. There was no panic or huge amount of concern."
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