US investigators have disclosed that a bird-strike involving a Delta Air Lines Airbus A320 last year was severe enough to penetrate the fuselage and affect pressurisation.
The aircraft had been descending through 13,000ft on the MARWI3 arrival pattern to Omaha on 19 November 2022 when it was struck in the cockpit area by a number of large birds – either snow geese or Ross’s geese.
According to the captain’s testimony to the National Transportation Safety Board, the impact “sounded like a bomb going off”.
“The cockpit door blew open and a panel blew down from the cockpit aft overhead panel area,” he added. “The flight leader immediately shut the cockpit door.
“We also started having a rapid decompression after the impact. The wind noise was extreme and made communication difficult, but I yelled to the first officer that he had the aircraft and radios.”
The first officer stated that the aircraft had been decelerating from 310kt and the strike occurred at around 290kt.
“We were engulfed in ice-cold air pouring into the cockpit from panels above my head,” he told the inquiry.
The crew declared an emergency but did not require oxygen masks, and the jet was cleared for the ILS approach to Omaha’s runway 32L. It subsequently landed without further incident or injury to the 147 passengers and six crew members.
Investigators found fuselage skin punctures in two locations on the right side, including a hole measuring 55cm x 20cm above the cockpit window and another impact near the pitot tube.
Another bird punctured the fuselage below the left-hand cockpit windows.
“Damage was evident to the stringers and frames at each location, and the size of the punctures in total exceeded the size of the outflow valve,” says the inquiry.
“The damage adversely affected the structural strength and pressurisation performance and required a major repair.”
Powered by CFM International CFM56 engines, the twinjet (N330NW) was a relatively early-build airframe, 30 years old at the time of the event.