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SLC Airport Division of Wildlife investigating Utah Jazz plane emergency landing

Posted at 8:31 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 22:31:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Airport Wildlife Division is investigating yesterday's emergency landing of a 757-200 carrying the Utah Jazz.

The Aircraft hit by multiple birds, which crippled the left engine and forced the pilot to turn around and make an emergency landing.

Read: Utah Jazz, minus Donovan Mitchell, in Memphis after charter plane's emergency landing

Bird strikes happen about every other day statistically and more during a migration season, but ones like Tuesdays incident are very rare.

In 2020, 163 bird or mammal strikes happened, resulting in only 8 damaged planes (both commercial and private.)

That compared to the FAA data from the same year that says 276,730 flights total at the airport, statistically that means you only have about a 0.0029% of your aircraft being damaged in a strike.

When asked about it, Candice Devila the Salt Lake Airport Wildlife Manager started by saying only the word “Sobering….”

Read: Salt Lake City International Airport begins construction of new concourse

While no one was hurt, the plane took some very serious damage, and according to Devila “it's probably some of the more significant damage we’ve seen in the last 10 to 11 years.”

The investigation so far has determined the strikes happened from multiple birds about 3 miles out from take-off.

The species of bird is unknown but experts are working toward finding out.

"We’ve actually taken feather samples and DNA samples from the aircraft,” Devila said.

But preventing future bird strikes is an even bigger part of the job as a member of the Salt Lake Airport Wildlife Division.

Devila took FOX 13 out to one of the traps out at the North side of the Airport, where several species of birds were there trapped.

“The whole key is to use a mirad of techniques” She says “being the wildlife manager… we see… I don’t want to say every day, but we do see strikes regularly.”

Read: Jazz star Donovan Mitchell to speak at U of U's spring commencement

Smaller birds such as starlings and sparrows can especially damage smaller planes that are not built to withstand large impacts.

Back at the wildlife shop at the airport, she showed several different types of traps they use, a lot of which date back to old falconry techniques.

Beyond birds, small mammals also can pose risks to aircraft on the ground as well as loose animals that occasionally find their way to the tarmac.

But whether it's a bird or any other animal related risk to the flying public, that is why this department exists and works very hard to make sure guests are safe in the sky.

“Public protection and the public safety is our #1 priority” Says Devila adding that “I love what I do.”