Passengers flying from Barnstable to Nantucket this morning just in time to enjoy a nice Thanksgiving holiday were splattered with bloody bird guts when a loon smashed through the aircraft’s windshield, the Barnstable airport manager said.
The Cape Air short-hop flight to the upscale island took off from Barnstable Municipal Airport at about 9 a.m. with two pilots and a handful of passengers on board, said airport manager Bud Breault.
Five minutes later, the plane was just soaring over the coastline when a bird crashed into the plane, shattering the windshield, and covering the inside of the aircraft with blood, Breault said.
The bird was identified as a red-throated loon.
“That’s a pretty big bird,” Breault said. “A potential catastrophic accident could have happened.”
The pilots were able to turn the plane around and land safely back the Barnstable airport, he said.
“I think the pilots deserve some kudos,” Breault said.
There were no injuries to anybody on board, but the bird did not make it.
The flight on the Cessna 402, a twin-engine, nine-passenger aircraft, normally takes 15 minutes.
Once back on land, the passengers cleaned up, changed their clothes, and boarded another flight to Nantucket, he said.
In his own career as a pilot, Breault has encountered four bird strikes.
“Fortunately, all of them were insignificant,” he said. “When you have to share the airspace with birds, things don’t always happen the way you thought they would.”
A spokeswoman for Cape Air didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said his agency would investigate the incident.
According to the FAA’s Wildlife Strike Database, there have been five other reported bird strikes at Barnstable Municipal Airport this year. A Cape Air Cessna 402, the same kind of plane involved in this morning’s incident, was reportedly struck by a mourning dove in May, according to the FAA.