Fact Check

Bird Shot

Rumor: Photographs show damage to an airplane caused by a mid-air collision with a goose.

Published Apr 23, 2015

Claim:   Photographs show damage to an airplane caused by a mid-air collision with a goose.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, December 2004]

This is how a goose at 185 knots can ruin your day. The pilot was injured but was able to land the aircraft (Beech Baron) safely.

Click photograph to enlarge

Click photograph to enlarge

Click photograph to enlarge


Origins:   Birds (especially large ones) can certainly pose a hazard to air traffic, and many an aircraft has been severely damaged or downed by a bird's flying into an engine or through a cockpit windshield (injuring or killing the pilot). Although the photographs displayed above are real, they do not, however, show the results of a goose's colliding with a small plane.

These photographs depict the aftermath of a mid-air collision between two small planes, a Beech 95-B55 and a Cessna 180K, over Tehachapi, California, on 16 January 2004. The Cessna was destroyed and its pilot killed, but the pilot of the Beech Baron amazingly suffered only minor injuries and was able to land his aircraft safely on a dirt airstrip. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report on the accident:

On January 16, 2004, about 1415 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 180K, N61691, and a Beech 95-B55, N555RD, collided about 6.5 nautical miles west of Tehachapi, California. The Cessna was destroyed, and its airline transport certificated pilot was fatally injured. The Beech was substantially damaged, and its private pilot received minor injuries.

The Beech pilot reported to the Safety Board investigator that, at the time of the collision, he was in a cruise climb. His altitude was over 5,500 feet mean sea level (msl) but less than 6,500 feet msl. Less than a second prior to the collision he observed the right landing gear of an approaching airplane in his 1 o'clock position. He then ducked in a reflex-like manner and the collision occurred. The Beech pilot observed a dirt airstrip near his location, and he made a precautionary landing.

Last updated:   23 April 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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