It’s not very often that you get to witness anything but the aftermath of a bird strike, but in this very rare footage, a camera mounted on the wingtip of microlight pilot John Comley’s trike caught the very last moments of a small bird as it impacted his craft as it was flying at around 50 mph. Comley was heading out after a touch-and-go from a small grass strip in South Africa, when a small bird flashed past him as he flew the Aquila weight-shift trike.
After the flight Comley examined the airplane and found the bird, “stone dead,” he said, embedded in the engine structure. “Thank heavens,” he said, “it didn’t go through the prop.” Thank heavens, we conclude, it wasn’t a larger bird and that it didn’t hit a little further to its right, where Comley was busy flying the trike.
When Comley later examined the high-definition video footage, he could see, if he watched frame by frame, the bird impacting the Rotax 582 engine just behind him. Like many microlights, the Aquila is outfitted with only a light Plexiglas windscreen between the pilot and the rushing wind. While larger light airplanes, like the Part 23 models many of us fly, offer better protection than Comley’s trike, the evidence from the aftermath of bird-on-airplane collisions is clear: we all just have to hope that luck stays on our side.