The men and women of the Air Force deal with a variety of dangers in the sky every day. But now they apparently have a new one to add to the list: fish.
A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration jet was struck by a falling fish during a MacDill Air Force Base takeoff last September, a new report from the Air Force says. The plane aborted the takeoff, assuming they had hit a bird -- a common occurrence at the waterfront base.
"We were nearing the point in the takeoff where we needed to rotate, or raise the nose of the airplane off the ground, when an Osprey with something in its claws flew in front of our aircraft," recalled Lt. Cmdr. Nick Toth, the pilot of the NOAA Gulfstream G-IV.
Bird strikes can damage aircraft and have been blamed for several fatal crashes around the world.
Planes are particularly vulnerable during takeoff and landing, so most airports have staff devoted specifically to preventing or responding to such incidents. MacDill, home to the USAF 6th Air Mobility Wing as well as NOAA's Hurricane Hunters -- is no exception.
"We swept the runway, but we didn't find any remains of the bird," said Lindsey Garven, 6th AMW bird aircraft strike hazard contractor. "We continued our search and were surprised to find a 9-inch sheepshead lying near the end of the runway."
Still skeptical, officials packed up the specimen from the runway along with DNA from the aircraft and sent them to the Smithsonian Feather Identification Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Results concluded the plane did, in fact, record NOAA's first-ever fish-strike.
"At first, we didn't believe the test results," exclaimed Toth. "There was no way we hit a fish during takeoff. I mean, how does something like that even happen?"
"As comical as this event is, the underlying lesson is that vigilance with regards to wildlife on and around the runway is necessary to keep all aircrew and aircraft safe and to maintain our goal of mission readiness," added Garven.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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