Friday, March 16, 2018

United Airlines, Airbus A320-200, N433UA: Incident occurred March 15, 2018 at Tampa International Airport (KTPA), Hillsborough County, Florida

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Tampa

Flight UA-2051: Struck a flock of birds during departure, returned and landed without further incident.

United Airlines Inc:

Date: 15-MAR-18

Time: 15:42:00Z
Regis#: UNK
Aircraft Make: AIRBUS
Aircraft Model: A320
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Operation: 121
Aircraft Operator: UNITED AIRLINES
Flight Number: 2051

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - A United Airlines passenger jet landed safely at Tampa International Airport Thursday morning following a bird strike during takeoff.

United Flight 2051 was headed to San Francisco and was carrying a heavy load of fuel for the cross-country flight when it hit the bird.

Kathleen Stellmach was on the plane and reading a book during takeoff and wasn't sure what the pilot said when he first made an announcement about a problem with the plane.

"I turned to the gentleman sitting next to me and I asked for clarification; 'did he just say birds hit our plane?'" said Stellmach.

TIA spokesperson Emily Nipps said the plane had to return to the airport, but pilots had to fly over the Gulf of Mexico to get rid of the fuel which lightened the weight of the plane so it could make a safe landing, which Nipps said is protocol.

A relative of one of the passengers on the plane notified WFLA News Channel 8 about the plane’s plight after her daughter contacted her from the plane. The daughter told her mother that the plane hit a bird and the plane was going to return to TIA. The daughter said the plane had been flying around for a long time and passengers were not told why.

FlightAware showed the live movement of United Flight 2051 during the ordeal.  According to the website, United Flight 2051 departed from the gate at 7:55 a.m. and took off at 8:17 a.m.  The website showed the path the plane took over north Hillsborough County and Pinellas County before it flew to the Gulf of Mexico.

The website then shows the plane flying in long, circles over the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pinellas County. Hours later, the plane had dumped enough fuel to fly back to TIA and land safely. According to FlightAware, the plane landed at TIA at 11:32 a.m.

Stellmach says the pilot and flight crew were perfectly calm and professional, although she was not.

"To be honest, I was thinking about the movie, well the story that happened in New York and then the movie I saw about the pilot landing the plane on the Hudson and honestly I was scared." said Stellmach

Arrangements were made for passengers to be placed on other flights and continue on to their destination of San Francisco.

“The plane has landed safely, everyone is fine, and United has arranged for another plane to take the passengers on to SFO,” said Nipps.

News Channel 8 crews were at TIA when the plane landed. Emergency vehicles and firefighters were standing by as a precaution.

A spokesperson for United verified the plane returned to TIA due to "mechanical issues." The spokesperson says there were 132 passengers and 5 crew members on board.

A brief statement on the incident from United says: "United Airlines Flight 2051 from Tampa, Fla., to San Francisco returned to Tampa due to a mechanical issue shortly after takeoff. The aircraft landed safely, and we apologize to customers for the delay and are working to get them to San Francisco as soon as possible."

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