CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Federal Aviation Administration officials told Channel 9 that a plane struck a deer while on departure at Charlotte Douglas International Airport just before noon on Wednesday, forcing it to turn around and abort a flight to Gulfport, Mississippi.
FAA officials said that an American Eagle CRJ 700 plane, operated by PSA Airlines returned to the airport after declaring an emergency after it apparently struck a deer while taking off.
Flight 5320, heading to Gulfport, hit the animal while taking off from runway 36 center around 11:45 a.m.
Diane Muellar was on the flight.
“Oh yeah. We heard the thud when we hit the deer. We didn’t know what it was, but we did hear the noise when we hit the deer,” Muellar said.
From Chopper 9 Skyzoom, the plane could be seen trailing a vapor stream from the right wing as it circled back to land.
Passengers told Channel 9 that once airborne, they made a pass over the airport so officials on the ground could visually check the damage.
All the while, passengers heard calm assurances from the flight crew.
“In all honestly, for a flier who is on planes every week, they did a great job,” Muellar said.
After it landed safely, emergency crews surrounded the plane. Officials said there was a fuel leak, and crews sprayed the plane with foam.
Meanwhile, other planes were stopped as the airport handled the emergency.
Passengers, including Greg Velz, snapped photos as they watched from the tarmac.
American Airlines said that all 44 passengers were evacuated from the plane and taken by bus back to the terminal. Nobody was injured.
“They all looked professional. They all knew what they were doing,” Velz said.
The runway was closed for several hours and officials were able to tow the plane from the runway around 2 p.m.
The passengers were placed on another flight.
Air traffic control detail midair emergency
Channel 9 listened to the tower controllers and pilot as they examined the damage to the plane.
Crews shifted other aircraft so the jet could make an emergency landing while it was leaking fuel.
In the air traffic control recordings, the midair emergency unfolded from the very moment the pilot learned he hit something while taking off.
“Did you hit something on the runway?” the control tower is heard asking.
“No, we had a loud bang. We’re coming back,” the pilot said.
As the pilot turned around it, was confirmed.
“We had an aircraft hit a deer on the runway,” the control tower said.
With 44 passengers and crew on board, other pilots helped examine the aircraft.
“Fly by to see if there is any damage that you all can see from our deer,” the pilot said.
“You are showing, you’re trailing some type of vapor off the right hand side,” the tower control said.
That vapor was jet fuel, according to Channel 9’s aviation expert.
Chopper 9 captured the plane descending onto the runway leaking a white stream of fuel from the right side
From Chopper 9, dents could be seen in the wing from the impact of the deer.
“Have the fire trucks advise us if there is any leaking fuel or anything, and our plan is to evacuate,” the pilot said.
Controllers created a plan to land safely.
“Airport is shifting around because of the airport emergency,” tower control said.
Fire trucks lined the runway and sprayed the plane with foam to prevent a fire.
“We’re going to evacuate at this position,” the pilot said.
Channel 9 watched as passengers walked down the steps, and everyone made it out safely
An aviation expert told Channel 9 this was a dangerous situation, and the pilot made the right call.
American Airlines released the following statement regarding the incident:
“American Airlines flight 5320, operated by PSA Airlines, hit a deer upon takeoff from Charlotte Douglas International Airport at approximately noon. It was a CRJ-700 with 44 passengers and 4 crew on board headed to Gulfport, Mississippi (GPT). The airplane came immediately back to the airport and landed safely. There was fuel leaking from the aircraft, so passengers deplaned on the runway and fire trucks did hose the plane down. The passengers have been bused back to the terminal and will get a new aircraft.”