Bird Strike Causes KLM Six Hour Flight To Nowhere

Filed Under: KLM

We’ve seen airlines operate some “flights to nowhere” for aviation enthusiasts in recent months due to the pandemic, though this was a different kind of flight to nowhere.

KLM 777 suffers bird strike, returns hours later

KLM flight 515 yesterday (Sunday, February 28) from Amsterdam to Zanzibar was a bit of an adventure, as reported by The Aviation Herald. The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-200 with the registration code PH-BQD. The plane experienced a bird strike on the left engine shortly after takeoff while climbing out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

While the crew knew there was a bird strike, there were no indicators that there was anything abnormal, so they made the decision to continue the flight (this isn’t unusual — I’ve experienced this before, and I’ve also experienced a lightning strike where we continued).

While the plane was at 35,000 feet and around 100nm southeast of Athens, Greece, the pilots finally made the decision to return to Amsterdam. Presumably there was some abnormality that caused the pilots to make this decision, whether it be an indicator light finally going off, or something else.

On the return journey the plane’s altitude fluctuated, as it initially flew at 36,000 feet, then 28,000 feet (which is quite low), and then it climbed back up to 34,000 feet.

Altogether the 777 spent just under six hours in the air before landing back at its origin airport. Based on the fact that the plane turned around it seems clear there was no immediate danger (or else the flight would have diverted), but that the plane would have likely had to be taken out of service for an extended period of time, which is much easier to do at a hub than a small outstation.

The aircraft has been on the ground in Amsterdam since yesterday. Photos of the plane show some damage both to the fan blades as such, and to the outside of the engine.

The flight ended up being postponed until today, when it operated without a hitch.

Flights to nowhere aren’t that uncommon

These kinds of unintentional, extended flights to nowhere happen more often than you might think. On average we see maybe one every month or so, and they can be for a variety of reasons. Heck, I’ve written about two separate occasions where KLM operated flights to nowhere:

A KLM flight to nowhere just a couple of months ago

Bottom line

Yesterday a KLM Boeing 777 operated a nearly six hour flight to nowhere. The plane had a bird strike on takeoff, but all indicators pointed to there not being any issue, so the plane continued. However, clearly some problems were encountered further into the flight, at which point the crew made the decision to return to Amsterdam.

  1. A slow news day, I guess.

    28,000 feet is hardly what anyone would call “quite low”.

    The real “adventure” would be flying to Zanzibar, in a country that continues to pretend that COVID and the pandemic just doesn’t exist, so they have taken no precautions since last April (when their president told God to get rid of COVID for him). I’m pretty surprised that Netherlands allows anyone to land at Schiphol coming on a flight from Tanzania. That’s f’ing crazy.

  2. @ Bobo Bolinski — a) I find these kinds of stories interesting, and have covered them for years, slow news day or not. b) I would disagree, 28,000 feet is “quite low.” I didn’t say it’s dangerously low, or unheard of, or anything else. I simply said it was quite low. And that’s accurate. Obviously there was a reason for this (perhaps weather, perhaps something to do with the engine), but 28,000 feet is lower than a 777 typically cruises mid-flight.

  3. @Bobo

    Well I did travel to Tanzania last July and I had a wonderful time all alone in the parks and spent a few days in Zanzibar at the Grand Hyatt (oh so very irresponsible of me)

    I can report that there was limited evidence of cadavers pilling up on the sidewalk, which may in turn suggest that perhaps 1) God listened to the President or 2) there was no need to overreact

    Either way it was rather refreshing to be out of the hysteria for a couple of weeks

  4. @Chuvash – if you were back in TZ today, you might actually find the cadavers overflowing if not onto the sidewalk, but definitely out of the regular morgue facilities. Even Magufuli now admits that there is COVID there, although his solution is to pray and ululate even more. And he also claims that vaccines have been developed by the white man to eradicate the African race, so he won’t be allowing them to be dispensed in the country (for now). So yeah, that’s TZ right now.

  5. Maybe KLM needs to look at their policies and procedures…. a bird strike is something which should always bring an aircraft back on ground as quickly and safely as possible.

    It is not something for which a pilot should rely on instruments to tell whether to proceed or not.

    In this case they wasted 6 hrs of everybody’s time and fuel to ultimately do what should have happened in first 30 mins. Maybe airline could have arranged a replacement aircraft with 3-4 hrs delay instead of 24 hrs delay.

  6. @Chuvash
    Glad you had a great and safe time in Tanzania visiting the game parks last summer.
    I was supposed to go last November but rescheduled this year: even though I had trip insurance and Medevac coverage.
    Had I had gotten exposed to Covid, I thought the risk was too great, given the politics and knowing that the entire country only has about 38 ICU beds

  7. I presume the pilots were told that the plane won’t be able to takeoff again (likely out of caution) until the engine cowling got replaced, so subsequently they returned to Amsterdam so an aircraft isn’t stuck at an outstation and can be repaired by KLM engineers.

  8. Tanzania and specifically Zanzibar is one of the most popular destinations with Europeans these days, precisely because of their pragmatic approach to covid. Think of it as European Florida, it’s where people go to avoid restrictions.

    If I weren’t gay, I would probably head there too.

  9. In 2017, while also flying with KLM on the Rio – Amsterdam flight we had to turn back almost midway thru the flight. We were already out of the Brazilian coast. The flight took 7 hours…
    The plane was a B789

  10. An article about a bird strike and the resulting return of the aircraft to its origination and….some people have to find a COVID angle. SMH.

  11. The technical folks at AMS probably relayed to the crew that they needed to come back as they weren’t going to take mechanics and spares to Tanzania. Jake is spot on.

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