Bird strikes are common occurrences in aviation, as are collisions between aircraft and deer, skunks and other unfortunate animals that wander onto runways.
However, recent incidents involving an aircraft departing MacDill Air Force Base and a plane practicing touch-and-go maneuvers from a small airport east of Tampa are anything but common. The reported collisions include a fish-strike and a collision between a plane and a skydiver. Both aircraft immediately returned to the tarmac; one landed safely and the other one crashed.
The larger fish-struck jet aircraft took off again without incident; however, the small plane struck a man’s chute then crashed nose first into the tarmac, dragging the skydiver along for a ride he is not likely to forget.
The aircrew, while departing MacDill, reportedly heard a thump just after spotting an osprey during takeoff. Logically, the crew surmised their aircraft had struck the large bird and so immediately returned to the base. Not so logically, zero evidence of a bird-strike was found on the runway or plane. They did find a striped sheepshead fish (indigenous to Tampa Bay) on the tarmac. A Smithsonian lab in D.C. confirmed that the jet hit the fish during takeoff.
“At first, we didn’t believe the test results,” pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Nick Toth of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently said in a statement. “There was no way we hit a fish during takeoff. I mean, how does something like that even happen?”
It turns out the osprey dropped his catch midair in an effort to evade the approaching jet, causing the rare collision between fish and a plane.
Plane hits skydiver near Tampa
Sunday, Sharon Trembley, 87, was doing takeoff and landing maneuvers in his private Cessna airplane from the South Lakeland Airport when he struck a descending skydiver at a very low altitude, according to a report by CBS affiliate WTSP in Tampa Bay. Photographer Tim Telford happened to be snapping photos and captured the incident on film.
"Thought I'd have very exciting pics of a close flyby," Telford told WTSP. "Never in a million years did I think I'd see what I saw."
A wing of the plane cut into the harness strings of skydiver John S. Frost less than a hundred feet over the tarmac as Telford snapped photos of the frightful collision.
"The plane caught the side of the canopy, flipped the plane 180 degrees and flipped the skydiver into the air. You heard the airplane hit the parachute, which sounded like you falling on your face into your pillow; a 'woof' sound."
Miraculously, both the pilot and skydiver reportedly escaped with minor injuries. Ambulances transported both men to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where Frost was treated and released. Trembley was held for observation, however neither suffered serious injury according to the WTSP report.
At press time, it was unclear why a skydiver and an aircraft occupied the same airspace at the same time.