MIAMI – An Alaska Airlines (AS) Boeing 737-700 (N615AS) struck and killed a bear at Yakutat Airport (YAK) resulting in damage to the left engine cowling. No one was injured on flight AS66 from Cordova. The flight was scheduled to stop in Juneau next.

Airport crew members cleared the runway about 10 minutes before flight 66 was scheduled to land, said Sam Dapcevich, a public information officer for the State Department of Transportation. The crews did not see any signs of wildlife during the check, but as the aircraft started to slow down after landing, Dapcevich said the Pilots spotted two bears crossing the runway.

The nose gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left side after the bears passed under the plane.”

Alaska Airlines

Crossing the Runway

According to Anchorage Daily News, the aircraft hit and killed a brown bear sow, but its cub, assumed to be around two years old, was uninjured, Dapcevich said.
The Pilots saw the bears crossing the runway as the plane was slowing down after landing. AS confirmed the plane was taxiing to park just before 6:30 pm local time when the incident occurred.

None of the passengers or crew members in the aircraft were injured. How many passengers were on the flight was not immediately clear, but those flying out of Yakutat were picked up by Anchorage-bound flight 107 on Saturday night. AS said that it had been rebooked on other flights after reaching Anchorage.

Meanwhile, the crew members at YAK cleared the bear carcass from the runway, and Dapcevich said the officials with the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game are expected to collect the remains. As for the Boeing 737-600, “Our maintenance technicians are working to repair the aircraft, which will take a few days,” said AS.

Past Incidents Involving Aircraft Striking Animals

In the past, aircraft were reported to hit deer, geese, caribou, and other animals in Alaska, but Dapcevich said this is the first time he’s heard of a plane hitting a bear.

In 1987, an AS aircraft was delayed while it was being inspected for damage in Yakutat after the bald eagle dropped salmon from its heels in midair and the fish hit the cockpit window shortly after. “They found a greasy spot with some scales, but no damage,” said the airport manager at the time.

The airport of Yakutat is partially enclosed by a fence. Dapcevich said that employees undergo annual wildlife hazard training and use pyrotechnics or vehicles to herd animals away from the area when needed. He said it was dark when the aircraft landed, and the crews followed a normal runway check on Saturday.

Featured image: N615AS Alaska Airlines Boeing_737-790 C N 30344. Photo: Wiki Commons.