Aviation officials say a “bird strike” forced an AirAsia jet that took off from Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday morning at 8:35 am to return for an emergency landing.
Flight AK 537D, which was bound for Kuala Lumpur, returned to the airport a few minutes after takeoff after it was struck by a bird, Khek Norinda, communications and marketing director at Cambodia Airports, which operates the airport, said yesterday.
“A few minutes later after taking off, the aircraft had to return… The flight is being delayed while the engine is being checked,” the communications director said. As of yesterday afternoon, the flight had been delayed until 12:20 am, according to departure screens at the airport.
Kem Channarith, an inspector for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the bird strike happened at about 10 am and that it had affected the aircraft’s engine.
“This is the responsibility of the Malaysian government. The engine is now being checked by Malaysian authorities and they will confirm [what happened] to us later,” Mr. Channarith said.
Bird strikes generally happen during take offs and landings, aviation experts say, although there have been reports of some occurring at high altitudes. Most cause minor or no damage, unless the bird is ingested into the engine, according experts quoted in online reports.
Mr. Channarith said he did not know what part of the plane the bird hit but added that it ended up inside an engine.
He said the jet was an Airbus 320. It can carry up to 180 passengers, but the number of passengers onboard could not be confirmed as AirAsia could not be reached for comment.
Keo Sivorn, operations director of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the plane would have had to land at the nearest airport. “Bird strikes happen in other countries and there is no way we can prevent them,” he said, adding that he believed the bird was small and did not cause much damage.
Earlier yesterday an official from the Immigration Department at the airport denied the incident had occurred. He told Khmer Times that a technical glitch had delayed departure of a flight by five minutes and that passengers on board were not aware. He asked Khmer Times not to report on the incident, saying it might affect the tourism industry.