John Albrecht
Bald Eagles and Bird Strikes

In the early 1970s, a Cessna 180 floatplane operated by the Russell and Lilly Logging Company was circling to land near Gibsons on B.C.'s sunshine coast. On board were the commercial pilot and company owners. At low level, the aircraft abruptly departed controlled flight and spiraled to the ground - there were no survivors. During the ensuing recovery, investigators discovered the remains of a bald eagle in the cockpit. It was apparent that an in flight collision had resulted in pilot incapacitation at an unrecoverable altitude.

Ron Pare, a retired Air Canada captain, recollects two bird encounters that exemplify the law of intensity.

In 1965 he was at the controls of a float equipped Cessna 180 in cruise at 6000 feet AGL near Sullivan Bay, BC. His scan picked up converging traffic: frontal and above the horizon. This rapidly materialized into an adult bald eagle in attack posture. Evasive action was required to avoid a mid air collision. Ron interpreted this as territorial behaviour with the egotistical mindset of raptor at the apex of the food chain: You are invading my air space - Leave!

Later in his career in the early 1970s he was the first officer of an Air Canada DC-8 passenger flight departing Calgary for San Francisco. Ceiling was 500 feet overcast. Takeoff roll and rotation appeared uneventful from the flight deck. Shortly after entering cloud, the tower controller queried their status. The crew reported no problems. The controller came back with the chilling tidbit that #3 engine was spewing flame before they vanished into the clag. The emergency landing at Calgary was performed flawlessly without further damage, injury or loss of life. Post incident investigation revealed that one or two hawks had been ingested by the engine, eviscerating the major components transforming it into a blow torch - no vibration and the crew was oblivious to its precarious situation. Alert ATC personnel and air crew discipline averted disaster. Lady Luck did not abandon this flight. Later examples will demonstrate that she was not always so benevolent.

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