Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A small bird managed to take over a Delta flight

On late Saturday morning, a bird flew out of the cold Detroit sky, across an airfield and into the cockpit of a jetliner bound south for Atlanta.

Some believe it was a sparrow. Some, a hummingbird. A Delta Air Lines spokesman referred to it only as "stowaway" - and in any case it would be a long delay before anyone on Flight 1943 could catch the thing to get a look at it.

Shane Perry, a minister with a connection and a speech to make, was waiting to board when he saw the pilot walk off the jet bridge and whisper something to the ticket agent.

"He said, 'In my 18 years of doing this, this is the first time I've ever seen this,' " Perry told The Washington Post. "There's a bird in the cockpit."

The ticket agent laughed at this. It still seemed funny to Perry, too, at that point. He boarded the plane with the other passengers and watched as yellow-vested workers rummaged through the cockpit.

They didn't find the bird in the first few minutes, or the next few. The pilot stood in the aisle, hands in pockets, and watched like everyone else.

An hour later, Perry was still sitting in a grounded airplane, watching winter birds flit around outside his window while the stowaway stayed hidden in the cockpit.

There was some talk that morning of moving everyone to a different plane, but, eventually, the pilot's voice came out over the intercom and announced that the bird must have left.

"The explanation was the bird had apparently flown out of some type of hatch under the plane, which seemed strange to me," Perry said.

He recalled the pilot telling the passengers: "We're going to take off, but if I hear any chirping in the cockpit, I'll turn around."

"I took that as a joke," Perry said.

Now accounts begin to differ again.

Perry doesn't think they were in the air more than five minutes before the bird made its second appearance. The Delta spokesman described the time, vaguely, as "shortly after takeoff."

For Brian Buonassissi, a traveling DJ in the middle of an exhausting New York-to-Detroit-to-Atlanta-to-Florida connection, it felt as if they'd been flying for an hour before the captain came back on the intercom and said: "The bird is back."

"The bird is flying around the cockpit," he announced, as Perry recalled it.

If the hunt for this elusive bird - which Buonassissi thought the pilot said was a hummingbird, though Perry was never sure - had begun in the morning as a comedy, it seemed less funny now at midday, thousands of feet above the ground.

Seated close behind the cockpit door, Perry imagined what might happen if the bird flapped into an instrument panel.

Back in aisle 14, Buonassissi heard his seatmates break into a chorus of groans, astonished laughs and "what did he say"s at the announcement of the bird's return, and what it meant for 100-odd humans on board.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the Captain made the decision to return to Detroit to avoid a potential distraction during flight," the Delta spokesman said in the statement.

Buonassissi thinks the bird, like everyone on the flight, made it halfway to Georgia before the plane turned back. A flight tracker shows the plane really just made a big loop around Detroit and landed back where it started, shortly after noon.

And then the men in yellow vests came back on board, and the search resumed.

By now people were in danger of missing their connections. So Buonassissi and a couple other passengers walked back to the gate to try to find other flights.

Perry stayed in his seat and watched a somewhat disgruntled-looking pilot watch the workers search for the bird.

Buonassissi got back on the plane, having decided that there was no faster way than this to get to his DJ gig.

A few more minutes passed, and then he saw it:

A worker came out of the cockpit. In his arms was a towel. In the towel was a very small bird that had managed to ground a 55-ton flying machine.

The plane took off again in the early afternoon. Perry made it to his speech, and Buonassissi made his connection.

"The bird was safely removed and set free," the spokesman wrote.

It has not been seen again.

A small bird managed to take over a Delta flight 12/31/17 [Last modified: Sunday, December 31, 2017 2:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2018 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Inside American Stage's plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG

    An air compressor did most of the talking as the small crew stapled down flooring to the stage. A master carpenter kept unskilled but eager workers on track, telling them where to line up edges. An astringent smell of glue permeated the set of A Raisin in the Sun, opening Jan. 26 at American …

  2. After half a century, World Liquors sign may finally come down

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — The demise of the distinctive sign has been rumored many times.

  3. Crystal Lagoon planners brace for chilly ribbon cutting today

    Real Estate

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.

  4. Extraordinary heroism deserves a less ordinary movie than '12 Strong'

    Movies

    After 16 years of combat and counting, the war in Afghanistan gets a happy movie ending in 12 Strong, a thick slice of patriot porn.

  5. 'Piratically speaking,' NHL thrilled to don Gasparilla garb for All-Star Game

    Events

    TAMPA — Jose Gaspar, mythical pirate, meet Lord Stanley of Preston.