The heavily damaged F-111.
The heavily damaged F-111.

F-111 survives bird strike at Evans Head

AN RAAF F-111 on a bombing exercise over Evans Head collided with a pelican, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to the aircraft and forcing it to return to Amberley Air Base in South-East Queensland.

On April 12 a pilot and navigator were flying at 900m and travelling at about 550km/h when the pelican hit the nose of the plane and was sucked into the engines which caused a loss of power and put a hole in one wing.

Wing Commander Trevor Owens said the pilot assessed that the plane was safe to fly back to Amberley.

"They got a hell of a fright, but the aircraft wasn't doing anything overly strange," he said.

Both the pilot and navigator were described as being 'reasonably experienced' and their efforts have been praised for bringing the plane home safely.

Concerns have been expressed the F-111 could have crashed into a residential area when it returned to base, but Mr Owens said they had flown mostly over 'country' areas.

RAAF Air Commander Neil Hart described the incident as 'freakish'.

"It's a surprise thing at 3000 feet to have a bird strike," he said.

A similar incident occurred over at Evans Head in September, 1977, when another F-111 hit a pelican, causing the death of the two crew on board and the loss of the aircraft.

The F-111 fleet was built in 1974 and will be retired in 2010 when an expanded fleet of new Super Hornets is introduced.


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