03/06/2014 12:43 am ET Updated Mar 06, 2014

Plane Hits Fish During Takeoff At MacDill Air Force Base In Tampa


Most pilots have probably never worried about their aircraft hitting a fish, but that's exactly what happened to a plane at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa last year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Gulfstream G-IV was headed down the runway when an osprey (the bird, not the aircraft) flew into its path, according to a report on the MacDill website.

Then the plane hit... something.

The takeoff was aborted, and the crew checked the runway for the bird. But all they found was a fish. Specifically, a 9-inch sheepshead.

They took a sample of the smudge on the plane and sent the fish and the sample off for testing. Sure enough, the DNA from the smudge matched that of the fish.

“At first, we didn’t believe the test results,” the pilot, NOAA Lt. Cmdr. Nicholas Toth, told Inside MacDill AFB, the base's internal publication. "There was no way we hit a fish during takeoff. I mean, how does something like that even happen?”

Putting the story together, they believe the osprey may have been eating the fish. When spooking by the approaching plane, the bird flew off and dropped the fish.

The Tampa Tribune reports that a search through FAA records finds hundreds of types of wildlife that have been hit by aircraft, but no fish -- although the paper did find a 1987 article in The New York Times that mentions an Alaska Airlines jet striking a fish in midair.

In that incident, the fish was dropped by an eagle.

''The law of the jungle prevailed,'' Paul Bowers, manager of the Juneau airport, told the Times. ''As the larger bird approached, the smaller bird dropped its prey.''



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