The hefty animal caused significant damage to the engine cowl of the jet during the bizarre encounter at Yakutat airport. However, the airline said that none of the passengers or crew suffered any injuries.
Airport staff had cleared the runway in southeast Alaska about 10 minutes prior to the landing, however, as the pilots powered down the jet following touch down they spotted two bears crossing the runway.
“The nose gear missed the bears, but the captain felt an impact on the left side after the bears passed under the plane,” Alaska Airlines said.
The force of the impact with the Boeing 737-700 killed the brown bear sow but its two-year-old cub managed to escape unscathed.
Department of Transportation spokesman Sam Dapcevich said it was dark when the plane landed, and crews had followed normal procedure when checking the runway.
The bear’s body could be seen lying about 20 feet off the center of the runway as the plane taxied to its parking area.
The plane had traveled from the small town of Cordova and was scheduled to stop in the Alaskan capital Juneau. It was forced to stay in Yakutat because of the damage it sustained in the crash.
“Our maintenance technicians are working to repair the plane, which will take a couple of days,” Alaska Airlines said.
The remote airport is only partially enclosed by a fence. Staff are trained to deal with wild animals and use vehicles and pyrotechnics to herd wildlife away from danger areas.
Planes in Alaska have previously been reported hitting a range of animals including deer, geese and caribou but Dapcevich said this was the first incident he was aware of in which a bear was hit by a plane.
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