Stunned passengers flying from Barnstable to Nantucket on Wednesday morning to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday were splattered with the bloody remains of a bird after a loon smashed through the aircraft’s windshield, the Barnstable airport manager said.
The Cape Air flight took off from Barnstable Municipal Airport at about 9 a.m. with two pilots and a handful of passengers on board, said airport manager Bud Breault.
Five minutes later, the plane was soaring over the coastline when the bird crashed into it, shattering the windshield, and covering the inside of the aircraft with blood, Breault said.
The bird was identified as a red-throated loon.
“That’s a pretty big bird,” Breault said. “A potential catastrophic accident could have happened.”
The pilots were able to turn the plane around and land safely back the Barnstable airport, he said.
“I think the pilots deserve some kudos,” Breault said.
There were no injuries to anyone on board.
The flight on the Cessna 402, a twin-engine, nine-passenger aircraft, normally takes 15 minutes.
Once back on land, the passengers cleaned up, changed, and boarded another flight to Nantucket, he said.
In his own career as a pilot, Breault has encountered four bird strikes.
“Fortunately, all of them were insignificant,” he said. “When you have to share the airspace with birds, things don’t always happen the way you thought they would.”
A spokeswoman for Cape Air did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said his agency would investigate the incident.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wildlife Strike Database, there have been five other reported bird strikes at Barnstable Municipal Airport this year. A Cape Air Cessna 402, the same kind of plane involved in Wednesday morning’s incident, was reportedly struck by a mourning dove in May, according to the FAA.Melissa Werthmann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.