Alaska Airlines Flight 66 arrives from Cordoba in Yakutat when the flight crew sees two bears crossing the runway, Alaska Airlines said in a statement.
“The bow equipment missed the bears, but the captain felt a blow from the left side as the bears passed under the plane,” the airline said in a statement. Pilots then spotted a bear lying a few feet from the center of the runway while taxiing a Boeing 737-700 for parking.
The left hood of the plane’s engine was damaged in the collision and maintenance technicians are currently working to repair the plane. Six passengers were on the flight at the time, but no injuries were reported.
After being informed of the incident, airport maintenance and operation crews removed the bear̵
They are in touch with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to organize the proper disposal of the bear.
“It’s rare for something like this to happen,” Dapcevic told CNN. “I’ve been in Alaska all my life and we’ve had planes with birds of prey and other animals … but this is the first case of a bear I’ve ever heard of.”
The airport is partially fenced. Airport operations crews have been trained by the US Department of Agriculture to use pyrotechnics and vehicles to stop animals from approaching the runway and obstructing aircraft operations, Dapcevic said.
Earlier, crews had seen two bears in the area and believed they were a female bear and a child. On the day of the incident, crews did not see wildlife during snow removal operations, according to Dapcevic.
Local photographer and biologist Robert Johnson said he was surprised by the incident. He went out to film the place after talking to his neighbors, who were passengers on the flight.
“It was an unusual event, in fact, at least for the first time in Alaska,” Johnson told CNN. “I’ve worked with bears for most of my life up here.”
In 1987, there was another incredible collision between wildlife and an Alaska Airlines plane – but that plane hit a fish.
An Alaska Airlines flight was taking off from Juneau when a large fish hit a Boeing 737-200 just behind the cockpit window. An eagle that had crossed the field had gripped the fish in its tongs.
Dapcevic said it was too early to say what steps would be taken to prevent a rare incident such as a bear collision in the future.