United Flight Collides With Bird On Descent To Denver

United Flight 1475 Escorted To Gate B28

A United Airlines plane collided with a bird on Tuesday as the jet was descending into Denver International Airport.

Pictures from the airport show a large hole in the nose of the Boeing 737.

Flight 1475 landed safely around 9:09 a.m., then was escorted to one of the gates on the B concourse at the airport.

There were 151 passengers on board but there were no injuries, said Christen David, a spokeswoman for United Airlines.

The plane was flying from Dallas/Ft Worth to Denver.

Steve Cowell, an aviation expert and pilot, told 7NEWS that the nose is the best part of plane a bird could hit.

"It didn't affect the engines. It didn't affect the landing gear from coming down at all," said Cowell. "Passengers probably wouldn't have felt anything, but the pilot certainly would have heard the smack of the bird on the nose."

According to Cowell, the pilots would have had to slightly alter the way they read their instruments.

"If (the pilots) were off their autopilot, they might have known to have to pitch the airplane up or down just a little bit differently to what they were used to doing," said Cowell.

He said the bird residue recovered from the aircraft will be sent to Washington to be analyzed by experts from the Smithsonian, who will help identify the bird.

"The Smithsonian Institution has a catalogue DNA database of every bird species in the world and they'll be able to determine what species that bird is based on that DNA analysis," said United States Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist Kendra Cross.

Cross is responsible for trying to keep wildlife away from the DIA. She uses non-lethal methods, such as shooting shell crackers into the air in a five-mile radius around the airport.

"They make just a loud bomb sound, just a burst in the air, and it makes them very uncomfortable to be on the airfield and to be around on this kind of environment," said Cross.

A spokeswoman for DIA said the bird strike happened about 25 miles outside of DIA's property.

"Twenty-five miles is definitely outside of our realm of expertise and I don't think there's a single non-lethal device that we have that will reach up to scare birds that are that high," said Cross.

The National Transportation and Safety Board has been called in to investigate -- as is typical in bird-strike cases.

"If I were to put money on it, I would say it would be a large flocking bird such as a goose or a duck," said Cross. "It could have been more than one bird? We don't know that. We've taken samples off of various parts of the plane that had impact, so we'll be able to determine if it's more than one bird or if it's just one bird."

According to Cross, the pilot reported that the bird strike damaged the airplane's horizontal stabilizer and air speed indicator. The impact did not affect the landing of the plane.

If you or someone you know was on this plane, please give 7NEWS a call at 303-832-0200.

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