Watch the drama unfold: Israeli Air Force F-15D hits a pelican flock on take off

IAF F-15D landing. (Image credit: David Cenciotti)

Although the video is not new (it was released shortly after the episode took place) the Israeli Defense Forces have recently released more details about it.

In October 2011, an Israeli Air Force F-15D fighter jet with an experienced pilot and navigator on board, taking off from Tel Nof airbase in central Israel, suffered a series of birdstrikes with a flock of pelicans.

Both engines caught fire but the pilot was able to return to the airport, land safely and catch the arresting wire on the runway with the plane’s tailhook.

As the aircraft came to a stop, the aircrew jumped out before the plane went up in flames.

The entire scene was filmed from the onboard camera and from the camera of the wingman.

The subsequent investigation found that (excerpt from the IDF blog):

  • A helicopter flew in the area of the flock minutes before the F-15, but it was lower than the flock and did not notice them.
  • An ecologist in the control tower checked the bird radar, but was given an incorrect altitude reading. Though the ecologist expressed concern, the takeoff was authorized.
  • One of the control tower personnel guessed that the radar was showing traffic on the highway seen below. Control tower personnel used binoculars to check for a flock of birds, but could not see one.
  • Bird watchers in the field were late with their reports.
  • The fire from the left engine disabled the sensors in the right engine, which is why the pilot received indications that his right engine was on fire.

An incident is always caused by a series of contributing factors….

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.