An Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber was recently damaged in a skirmish along the northern U.S. border with foes a fraction of its size: birds.
Air Force spokesperson Justin Oakes said Tuesday that a B-52H at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, hit a flock of birds in midair Nov. 3, prompting an investigation into how badly the plane — including its eight jet engines — was affected.
No one was hurt in the incident, which appears to have been captured on video and posted to social media the same day.
“I cannot confirm the relationship or origin of this video,” Oakes said. “There was a similar instance at Minot.”
In the post uploaded by Facebook user Andrew Tancabel, a wide-winged aircraft plowed through a line of birds, which Tancabel believed were Canada geese. Moments later, dark smoke appears to billow from the jet’s four pairs of engines as it flies away from the camera.
Oakes declined to answer how the crew onboard the aircraft reacted to the dicey situation.
“That bird strike is currently undergoing the normal safety investigation process to determine what type of bird, evaluate the damage caused to the aircraft, and see if there is anything that can be learned to prevent future mishaps of this nature,” he said.
Bird strikes are an occupational hazard for the airmen who share their skies; about 100 such mishaps are documented each year, according to the Air Force Safety Center. The collisions can be severe but are rarely fatal to airmen.
Minot’s 5th Bomb Wing flies the long-range, nuclear-capable bomber on conventional combat and nuclear deterrence missions around the world. The Air Force has owned its fleet of nearly 80 Stratofortresses since 1962.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.