Bird Strike – What Would You Do?

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Allen is the proud owner of a 1979 Grumman-American AA-5A “Cheetah” based northeast of Detroit, Michigan. On the morning of April 25, 2020, he was taking off from a 4,000-foot runway to fly home when his aircraft hit a bird and lost power. He was able to abort the takeoff and land on the remaining runway. 

Egressing the aircraft, Allen surveyed the damage. What he found was the remains of a large black bird that had been sucked into the engine’s air intake fully intact, somehow avoiding being sliced by the propeller which appeared undamaged.The engine compartment was a mess of feathers and bird remains. It was impossible to tell what other damage the bird ingestion might have caused.

If you were in Allen’s shoes, what would you do?

There was a maintenance shop on the field. Its hangar door was open. Allen had his crippled Cheetah towed into the shop. The mechanic looked over the airplane and advised Allen that the engine would have to be removed and sent out for an overhaul. Yikes!

Allen started to panic, and then remembered that he had enrolled his Cheetah in SavvyBreakdown in July 2018 and had renewed his coverage in July 2019 so it was still in force. Allen called the toll-free 24/7 SavvyBreakdown hotline and told the operator that he was AOG and needed help. 

Four minutes later, he received a call back from Savvy’s on-call account manager Tom Cooper. Tom asked Allen what was wrong. Allen told Tom his tale of woe, culminating with the on-field mechanic’s verdict that the engine would need to be overhauled. Tom told Allen that there was no reason to consider tearing down the engine under these circumstances. Tom quickly came up with the following specific plan of action for the on-field mechanic to perform:

  • Remove black bird from induction air intake
  • Remove engine cowl
  • Open induction air filter canister and inspect foam filter
  • If the filter is intact, clean and reinstall filter (otherwise replace filter)
  • Inspect SCAT hose from inlet to air filter, clean out bird feathers and debris
  • Clean induction inlet screen to remove bird feathers and debris
  • Reinstall engine cowl
  • Perform runup and high-speed full-power taxi
  • If high-speed full-power taxi is unremarkable, make and sign a log entry documenting the work performed

The on-field mechanic performed this work as instructed by Tom.

Two days later, Allen returned to the airport and performed a thorough ground runup. He consulted with Tom about the fuel pressure gauge readings at idle (which were slightly lower than he was used to seeing), but Tom assured him that they were normal and well within specs. 

Allen flew home uneventfully. Tom continued to follow up until he was assured that Allen was safely home.

Allen’s use of Savvy’s 24/7 breakdown assistance saved him more than $30,000 in unnecessary maintenance expenses, not to mention at least two months of downtime.

You bought a plane to fly it, not stress over maintenance.

At Savvy Aviation, we believe you shouldn’t have to navigate the complexities of aircraft maintenance alone. And you definitely shouldn’t be surprised when your shop’s invoice arrives.

Savvy Aviation isn’t a maintenance shop – we empower you with the knowledge and expert consultation you need to be in control of your own maintenance events – so your shop takes directives (not gives them). Whatever your maintenance needs, Savvy has a perfect plan for you: