NTSB Publishes Report On Spirit Airlines Bird Strike

What did the NTSB conclude about last October’s incident?

Spirit Airlines is the first ultra-low cost carrier in the United States to offer its customers inflight WiFi. Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying

On October 2, 2021, a Spirit Airlines flight rejected takeoff in Atlantic City due to a bird strike on the runway. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its final report on the incident just yesterday. The report found that the bird strike eventually led to a failure of a fuel tube which ignited an engine fire.

Bird strike leads to rejected takeoff

Last October, Spirit Airlines flight NK-3044 was on its way to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Florida, from Atlantic City, New Jersey, when a bird strike occurred on the aircraft’s right engine. The aircraft involved in the incident was an Airbus A320neo, registration number N922NK.

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At approximately 17:47 local time, the Spirit A320neo was accelerating for takeoff on Atlantic City’s runway 31 when the crew rejected takeoff. The aircraft was at a low speed, approximately 60 knots, when a bird struck the engine on the right-hand side. The crew was able to safely reduce the speed of the aircraft and come to a complete stop about 550 meters down the runway. Air Traffic Control recordings reveal that the tower asked if the plane needed assistance, and the pilots replied, “roll the trucks please.”

Shortly after, the tower notified the pilots that there appeared to be a fire underneath the engine. About one minute later, the pilots told the tower they were evacuating the aircraft. Passengers and crew evacuated from the left side and slid down the emergency slides onto the runway. In evacuating the plane, three passengers and one crew member suffered minor injuries.

Following the incident, Spirit released the following statement:

“Spirit flight 3044 from ACY to FLL encountered what is believed to be a large bird while accelerating for takeoff in Atlantic City, which entered one of the plane’s engines. The captain braked safely and brought the plane to a stop, received an indication of damage to the engine, and ordered an evacuation in accordance with our standard procedures. “

The airline applauded its crew members for “handling the situation swiftly and safely.”

NTSB final report

The NTSB final report concluded that the reason for the fire was a fuel leak that was caused by the strike and not a manufacturing issue.

The ingestion of a bird into the right engine during the takeoff roll caused a fan blade to fracture near the blade platform resulting in high fan blade off loads and engine vibrations sufficient to result in an eventual failure of a fuel tube in the right engine that sprayed fuel onto hot engine cases, igniting and undercowl engine fire and triggering a rejected takeoff.

According to the analysis by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Nature History Division of Birds – Feather Identification Laboratory, the bird involved in the strike was a “male immature Blade Eagle.” This eagle was heavier than the birds used on the Federal Aviation Administration bird ingestion certification test. During the certification test, the bird weight requirement was 2.75 kilograms (6.05 pounds), and the eagle involved in the incident weighed 4.13 kilograms (9.1 pounds).


Have you ever seen a bird strike up close? Ever been evacuated from an aircraft? What happened? Let us know in the comments below.

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