Bald Eagles and Bird Strikes
On December 18, 2005, Kyleen Stanton, an instructor with Coastal Pacific Aviation, was pilot-in-command of a mountain cross-country check ride with two commercial students. The route was round-robin from home base Abbotsford to Pemberton with a pilot flying exchange during the stop over. They were flying a company Cessna 172, GIXQ. Weather was clear for the late afternoon flight. Progress was uneventful outbound to the mid point of Stave Lake. They were in cruise flight at 3000 feet AGL when without warning, a mature bald eagle appeared in the left lower quadrant and climbed directly into their flight path. Kyleen immediately took control and initiated an evading left turn. Despite this action, impact with the nose of the aircraft occurred. Time estimate from sighting to impact was several seconds.
On recovery, flight characteristics of GIXQ were normal but the cockpit quickly filled with the odor of burning flesh and feathers. A glance at the oil temperature gauge revealed the needle at the red line. Despite this, the engine ran smoothly. Course reversal was completed and the flight plan amended to return directly to home base - with constant vigilance for suitable fields for an off airport landing in the event of an engine failure or fire. The landing and taxiing at Abbotsford were uneventful. It was only on post landing inspection that the damage incurred by this strike was appreciated: smashed landing light and cowling, loosened alternator mounts and dented propeller spinner. The initial estimate for repairs was $4-5000.
It was obvious that the eagle did not survive. I have my suspicions that this was the same bird that had attempted to intercept me. Proof is impossible. Unfortunately, a bird strike is not always such a lopsided affair.