Friday, April 22, 2016

Incident occurred April 14, 2016 at Roscommon County Blodgett Memorial Airport (KHTL), Houghton Lake, Michigan

"He caught a glimpse of the bird just at the last second out of the corner of his eye. Very fortunate. Very fortunate."

A close encounter between a pilot and a bird...

A goose smashed through a plane's windshield, putting the pilot in real danger.

The goose broke though the windshield of seasoned Ohio pilot, Robert Metzger's, plane as he flew a routine flight to check pipelines in Northern Michigan over Kalkaska.

The goose forced Metzger into an emergency landing at Roscommon County's Blodgett Memorial Airport early last Thursday morning.

"He declared an emergency," says Eric Jaroch, airport manager. "He was on with air traffic control in Minneapolis and declared an emergency and diverted from where he was and wanted to land at Houghton Lake State Airport which is across the lake. He got over to the airport down there and was unsure of the condition of the grass runway and decided not to land and then came over to our airport."

It all happened around 1,300 feet, and ended up inside the plane's tail section after breaking all the way through the interior.

He was going almost 145 miles per hour.

"It hit the rear seat and folded it down, went through a partition bulkhead in the back there and again ended up in the tail section," Jaroch says. "Had the bird come through the left side, which the pilot is sitting on the left side of the aircraft, and had it come in, there's no telling what could have happened."

Jaroch, who also owns Cornerstone Aircraft Maintenance and repaired Metzger's plane, says the seasoned pilot flew 20 minutes in frigid air to land safely.

"By the time he had landed, EMS was here, the fire department, the sheriff's department was here and he was nearly hypothermic," Jaroch says. "No telling what could have happened. A goose is a fairly large bird and had it hit him in the face or chest, he could have been incapacitated, airplane crashes, okay, now we got bigger and more serious problems."

A chunk of the windshield hit Metzger in the forehead but he wasn't hurt.

Jaroch says Metzger was able to maintain altitude and control after the windshield shattered.

"He probably didn't have much time left to land safely with all of his faculties intact," Jaroch says. "He had a welt there on his forehead and they checked him out. Everything was good."

The goose caused around $2,000 in repairs to replace the glass.

A full inspection was done on the rest of the plane to make sure everything else was fine.

He was able to fly the plane home today.

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