Big Bustard Busts Blade: Propeller Blade Failure After Bird Strike

Big Bustard Busts Blade: Propeller Blade Failure After Bird Strike (Airlink J41 ZS-NRJ vs a Kori Bustard, Venetia Mine, South Africa)

On 3 January 2022, BAE Jetstream 41 ZS-NRJ of Airlink suffered a bird strike and propeller blade loss after touchdown at Venetia Mine Aerodrome (FAVM), Limpopo Province, South Africa.  The propeller blade entered the cabin but fortuitously on this low load factor flight (there were only 4 passengers) none of the occupants were injured.

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure (Credit: SACAA)

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure (Credit: SACAA)

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SA CAA) Accident and Incident Investigations Division has issued their Preliminary Report:

FAVM is an unmanned, licensed aerodrome; it has one runway [1538 x 15 m] oriented 08/26.

Venetia Mine Airport - Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 Bird Strike (Credit: SACAA)

Venetia Mine Airport – Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 Bird Strike (Credit: SACAA)

Approximately 15 nautical miles (nm) to FAVM during descent, the first officer (FO) made a radio call to FAVM inspector…to inform him that they will be landing shortly. Thereafter, the aerodrome inspector went to performed runway inspection in preparation for the aircraft to land. After he had completed inspection, he called the crew and informed them that all was clear.

The crew stated that touchdown was normal on Runway 08 [at c08:10 Local Time], however, during the landing roll at a ground speed of approximately 104.6 knots with the propellers in the reverse thrust configuration (course pitch), a large bird got airborne from the grass area next to the runway on the right side.

Venetia Mine Runway - Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 Bird Strike (Credit: SACAA)

Venetia Mine Runway – Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 Bird Strike (Credit: SACAA)

The bird impacted the right-side propeller and one of the blades was severed.

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure and Fuselage Damage (Credit: SACAA)

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure and Fuselage Damage (Credit: SACAA)

The aircraft was fitted with EASA certified MT Propeller MTV-27-1-NCFR(G)J/CFRL-285-82 propellers, whose installation on the J41 was certified under a local Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) to replace the original propeller.  These propellers are made from ‘natural composite’ (i.e. laminated compressed wood).

Blade debris penetrated the fuselage at the third row of passenger seats.

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure - Cabin Damage (Credit: SACAA)

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure – Cabin Damage (Credit: SACAA)

Some debris exited through the left hand side cabin window.

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure - Opposite Cabin Window (Credit: SACAA)

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure – Opposite Cabin Window (Credit: SACAA)

The out of balance force damaged the engine mounts and propeller gearbox.

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure - Gearbox Damage  (Credit: SACAA)

Airlink BAE Jetstream 41 MTV-27 Propeller Blade Failure – Gearbox Damage (Credit: SACAA)

According to the crew, the bird strike caused the aircraft to shake and the number 2 engine to show over temperature indication. The Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) indication was over 750°C. The crew followed the engine shut down procedure while bringing the aircraft to a stop on the runway.

The SA CAA say that the accident was “considered survivable”, though this appears to be simply because row 3 was unoccupied.  In fact…

The cabin crew member reported that the passenger who was seated in row 3 for weight and balance purposes, vacated the seat during flight to occupy one of the empty seats at the back of the aircraft.

The bird was identified as a Kori Bustard.  This species is described as:

…. They live in grasslands and savannas in eastern and southern Africa.

Male kori bustards range in weight from 24-42 pounds (11-19 kilograms), and females are roughly half the size of the males. They stand about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Kori Bustard (Credit: Winfried Bruenken CC BY-SA 2.5)

Kori bustards are omnivorous birds… Insects form a large portion of their diet, especially when they are chicks. They also eat a variety of small mammals, lizards, snakes, seeds and berries. They have been observed eating carrion.

The Kori Bustard far exceeds the size of bird that aircraft, engines and propellers are designed to withstand (19 kg is an order of magnitude greater than the maximum mass for propeller certification).  Hence, airfield bird control measures are critical.  The SA CAA publish this extract from the Aerodrome Operations Manual:

zsnrj j41 bird strike aerodrome ops manual

We will update this article when more information is released.

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