Ten people needed medical attention yesterday after ‘multiple bird strikes’ forced Ryanair Flight FR4102 from Frankfurt into an emergency landing at Rome’s Ciampino Airport. The birds seem to have flown kamikaze-style into the plane’s engines while it was descending towards the airport, and the subsequent landing was sufficiently difficult to cause ‘substantial damage’ to the aircraft’s landing gear. If things weren’t tough enough for the airline industry, now Nature’s conspiring against them...
The good news was that none of the 172 people on board were seriously injured, although 2 cabin crew and 8 passengers were taken to hospital as a precaution. The birds apparently decide to explore the inside of the engines as the plane was coming in to land, sending smoke billowing from plane and forcing the pilot to bring it down a little more quickly than intended. And just in case we were in any doubt about what happened, the ever-forthcoming Ryanair has already published a picture on its site of the plane’s blood-spattered nose cone, which looks like it’s just gone 12 rounds with Joe Calzaghe.
Ryanair isn’t generally known for being apologetic, but it was the model of penitence in its public statements yesterday, ‘sincerely’ apologising to all its passengers for the episode and the subsequent disruption. Near-misses like these are always a PR challenge for companies, but Ryanair seems to have taken the sensible route of maximum disclosure, while emphasising the sterling efforts of its pilots and cabin crew. So it shouldn’t come out of this badly – although with Ciampino expected to remain closed until Monday evening, it will have caused a lot of upheaval for unlucky flyers.
Of course it’s hardly an airline’s fault if a flock of birds decides to commit suicide-by-aircraft-engine – but Ryanair will know as well as anyone that the air travel market is not in a very healthy state at the moment, and incidents like this are the last thing it needs. It’s hard enough for some of us to persuade ourselves that sitting on a massive lump of metal several thousand feet in the air is a sane and sensible way to travel, without being reminded that a stray bird can bring it abruptly to earth...
In today's bulletin:
Now house sales hit 30-year low
Vodafone to cut £1bn costs as sales slow
Editor's blog: The City's Oedipus complex
Crunch puts the mochas on Starbucks profits
PR headache for Ryanair after bird trouble