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Continental flight diverts to Dulles after it reports striking birds

By Mike M. AhlersCNN
  • Continental flight 1559 departed Reagan National Airport outside Washington, said FAA
  • Flight diverted after reports of birds striking left engine
  • FAA did not give cause for problem, but recorded air traffic conversations indicate bird strike

Washington (CNN) -- A Continental flight departing Reagan National Airport near Washington for Houston, Texas, on Monday morning diverted to nearby Dulles airport after the crew reported that the plane struck birds, damaging its left engine.

The incident happened shortly after Continental flight 1559 departed Reagan National Airport outside Washington, said Arlene Salac, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman. The plane reported an engine problem, the FAA said.

The FAA did not immediately have a cause for the problem, but in air traffic control radio conversations apparently recorded by, the crew of the Boeing 737 contacted the airport and said, "Ah, we just hit some birds. We're losing our left engine."When the controller asked the plane to confirm, the crew responded, "We're losing our No. 1 engine. We're going to have to go over to Dulles."

In a later radio transmission, the crew said the engine was still running, but was "rough." The plane landed without incident at Dulles, and taxied to the terminal under its own power, the FAA said. The Boeing 737 aircraft are designed to operate on one engine if necessary.

Bird strikes are relatively common and do not always damage jet engines, although large birds or flocks of birds can seriously harm planes and engines. Most famously, in 2009, a flock of geese damaged both engines on US Airways flight 1549, forcing the crew to land the plane in New York's Hudson River. All 155 people on the plane survived.