NEW YORK -- A seagull put a hole in the nose of a JetBlue airliner shortly after the plane took off from a suburban New York airport Friday, but the jet and its 142 passengers landed safely at nearby Kennedy International.
Stephen Ferguson, assistant manager of the Westchester County Airport, said Flight 671, an Airbus 320, had just left for Palm Beach International Airport at about 9 a.m. when it hit the bird about 300 feet off the ground.
The dead bird remained stuck in the hole it made and the crew reported the hit to the tower but said the plane's operations were not affected, Ferguson said. The crew then decided to divert to JFK as a precaution.
"The runways are longer there and JetBlue has a hub there, with a full maintenance crew," he said. "I thought that was a smart decision."
The plane landed at JFK at about 9:55 a.m. Photos from the airport showed the plane on the ground with the bird's carcass still stuck to the nose. Ferguson said the bird was believed to be a young herring gull.
"When we got off the plane we saw the bird all over the front of the plane," passenger Karen Hershberg told News 12 Westchester. "Then they removed the bird and there was a big hole in the nose."
JetBlue spokeswoman Real Hamilton-Romeo confirmed a bird strike but would not comment on the extent of the damage. She said maintenance crews were examining the plane.
She said most passengers were put on flights from New York to various airports in Florida, but some opted to return to the Westchester airport in Harrison.
Ferguson said the Westchester airport has an ongoing wildlife management program that uses various means, including shooting, to keep birds away from planes.