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Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-800 on final Approach to SeaTac (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

Alaska Airlines Strikes Bear During Landing in Yakutat

On Saturday, Alaska Airlines flight 66 struck and killed a brown bear as it landed at Yakutat Airport in southeast Alaska. Anchorage Daily News reported that no passengers or crew were injured, but the aircraft sustained damage to its left engine.

Aircraft Strikes a Brown Bear After Landing

According to a statement from Sam Dapcevich, a public information officer for Alaska’s Department of Transportation, the airport crew had cleared the runway ten minutes before the flight was scheduled to land and had not seen the bears on or near the airport at that time. However, after the aircraft landed and began to slow, the pilots said they saw two bears – a mother and her cub – crossing the runway. The engine struck and killed the mother, but Dapcevich said the cub, which he thought to be around two years old, was not hit. 

Alaska Airlines said in a statement, “the nose gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left side after the bears passed under the plane.” The carrier also explained that, when taxiing to park, the pilot “saw the bear lying about 20 feet from the center of the runway.” The 737-700 remained in Yakutat on Sunday and is expected to stay for a few more days as maintenance technicians repair the left engine cowl. The damaged aircraft was scheduled to fly to Juneau next, so passengers were picked up by flight 107 on Saturday night and flown to Anchorage, where they were rebooked on other flights.

Yakutat Airport Wildlife Management

Alaskan airports are no strangers to wildlife. Employees who work at the airport receive wildlife hazard training and are equipped with pyrotechnics and vehicles to drive animals away from the field. However, Yakutat Airport is only partially fenced, which leaves an opportunity for some animals to make their way onto the runways. Dapcevich said it was dark when the aircraft landed on Saturday, but employees followed proper procedures when checking the runway and saw no signs of wildlife. The bear’s carcass was removed from the runway by crew workers, and the remains were to be collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. It it unclear as to what will happen to the cub. 

Dapceviche said he has heard of caribou, moose, deer and geese being hit by aircraft in Yakutat, but never a bear. Facebook user Robert E-bear Johnson shared a photo of the damaged engine with the caption, “Alaska Airlines flight 66 hit and killed a bear while landing here in Yakutat last night. No one on the plane was injured and her cub survived. Friends on the plane said that they definitely felt a ‘bump.’ The airplane remains on the tarmac in Yakutat.” When asked in the comments on how the bears got onto the runway, Robert explained that “streams with late-coho salmon line the runways here,” suggesting the bears possibly ended up on the field during their hunt. Another local commented on the post, saying the bears possibly entered the runway via the side of the airport with no fencing, explaining that moose and wolves are known to enter this way.

Taylor Rains
Taylor Rains
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