On Sunday (May 5), pilots on a Southwest Airlines flight from Havana to Fort Lauderdale were forced to return to Cuba to make an emergency landing when birds struck the airplane’s engine.
In a statement from Southwest, flight 3923 “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose.”
A video that a passenger took from inside the plane after the bird strike shows the cabin filling up with smoke. One of the pilots can be heard telling passengers to cover their faces.
In another passenger video, oxygen masks are shown to have been released to help passengers breathe easier. The video later captures the passengers walking on the airport runway after exiting the damaged plane.
The flight, which departed from the José Martí International Airport in Cuba and was flying to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, returned safely to Havana. There were no reports of injuries to any of the passengers or the crew after this terrifying ordeal.
“Nobody could breathe,” passenger Marco Antonio told NBC’s Early TODAY. “It was burning so much in the lungs. People were just screaming. Kids were screaming.”
The plane, a Boeing 737, had 147 passengers and six staff members. “We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and have reached out to address their needs and offer support,” the airline added.
The Federal Aviation Administration has been tracking bird strikes (the Administration calls them wildlife strikes) since 1990. Approximately 255,000 wildlife strikes with civil aircraft have been reported in the U.S. between 1990 and 2021. In 2021, there were about 15,400 strikes at 708 U.S. airports.