Sea Gulls Ground US Airways Jet

A flock of sea gulls collided with a US Airways flight, forcing the jet to return to Louis Armstrong International Airport on Sunday morning and stranding some passengers in the city overnight.

None of the passengers was injured, but the birds caused so much damage that mechanics determined that the plane, a Boeing 737-400, was not airworthy, said Morgan Durrant, spokesman for US Airways.

Flight 758 was scheduled to leave New Orleans on Sunday at 7:35 a.m. for Charlotte, N.C., Durrant said. The plane holds about 100 passengers, though Durrant said he did not have specific information about how many people were aboard. The plane was traveling down the runway but had not yet taken to the air when about 10 or more seagulls hit the nose and flew into the engines.

US Airways was unable to find a spare plane and ended up arranging travel for most of the passengers on other airlines, Durrant said. But some unlucky passengers were stranded overnight. They were put up for the night in hotel rooms and continued their travel Monday morning.

The collision forced the airport to briefly shut down the runway and remove the strike "debris," airport spokeswoman Michelle Duffourc said.

The airport uses a federally mandated wildlife hazard mitigation program to reduce the possibility of bird strikes, she said. Procedures range from deterrents such as noise makers to lethal methods like using firearms.

While it's quite common for a plane to encounter one or two birds, Durrant said multiple bird strikes are rare.

"One bird doesn't do very much damage. Ten, however, can render an airliner unsafe to fly," he said.

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