A Southwest Airlines passenger plane made an emergency landing in Cuba after colliding with a handful of birds. The plane was flying from Havana to Fort Lauderdale in Florida on an otherwise routine flight. According to a Southwest spokesperson, the plane “experienced bird strikes to an engine and the aircraft’s nose.”

A Southwest aircraft makes an emergency landing

The Cuban Aviation Corporation confirms the pilots noticed the collisions quickly and made a safe landing back in Havana. However, video footage from inside the aircraft shows passengers panicking as the cabin fills up with smoke.

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One of the passengers, Marco Antonio, made an appearance on “Early TODAY” and said, “Nobody could breathe. It was burning so much in the lungs. People were just screaming. Kids were screaming.” However, upon landing, the passengers safely exited the plane through a slide.

“It was like a burn smell, and it was hurting my face. My eyes got real red, my chest started to burn,” another passenger said to WBRC.

Soon after, the airport transferred the passengers to another flight that took them to Fort Lauderdale. For their part, Southwest released a brief statement. “We apologize to our Customers for the inconvenience and have reached out to address their needs and offer support,” a spokesperson said.

Birds hit planes more often than you’d think…

According to the FAA, there were approximately 16,000 incidents involving a plane hitting a bird in 2021. However, only 3% of those collisions happen during the “en-route phase” of a flight. Basically, when the plane is actually in the air.

In early February, a Southwest plane nearly crashed into a FedEx plane while one was departing and the other was landing. The two aircrafts came within 100 feet of each other, narrowly missing a potentially catastrophic disaster.

The last major incident involving Southwest Airlines occurred on April 17, 2018. A Boeing 737 flying over Pennsylvania suffered a sudden engine failure while at a cruising altitude (normally around 30,000 feet). The plane landed safely in Philadelphia, but one passenger died.