Wildlife hazards are nothing new in aviation. But one pilot of a private aircraft got more than he bargained for when landing at an Orlando airport last week.
As the Piper Navajo propeller aircraft landed at Orlando Executive Airport on 1JUN, the pilot encountered an 11-foot-long, 500-pound alligator. The plane struck the gator as it landed, killing the gator and damaging the aircraft – but leaving Orlando pilot Rick Crose unharmed.
The incident has gone viral since another pilot, Brad Pierce, posted a post-landing picture of Crose standing next to the giant gator on the runway.
“I was told the pilot was flying a Navajo and the gator jumped up and struck the wing during his landing,” Pierce said in the post. “The gator was killed instantly and the aircraft sustained damage to the wing. One of the craziest things I've ever seen in all my years in aviation. Welcome to Florida folks!”
Orlando Executive Airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell confirmed the incident to the Orlando Sentinel “Fish and Wildlife Service said it was a 500-pound alligator,” she told the paper.
A trapper eventually removed the alligator's body from the Orlando Executive Airport, a general aviation facility that’s fronted by several lakes.
As unusual as the incident sounds, WKMG TV of Orlando noted that it’s not the first time an alligator has caused a problem at a Florida airport.
“The last time a plane in Florida hit an alligator was in 2013 at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, according to the Federal Aviation Authority wildlife strike database,” WKMG reported. “Locally, an alligator was struck at Orlando International Airport on Sept. 12, 2012.”