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Allegiant flight hits bird after taking off from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport

CLEARWATER — An Allegiant Air flight hit a bird within five minutes of taking off from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport Monday evening, prompting the pilots to turn around and return to the airport.

"No emergency was declared, but, out of an abundance of caution, the captain decided to return to the airport to have the aircraft inspected," Allegiant spokeswoman Sonya Padgett said Tuesday in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. There were no injuries.

"The aircraft landed normally and without incident," Padgett said. "A replacement plane completed the flight."

It arrived at 11:15 p.m. local time in Belleville, Ill., a suburb or St. Louis, Mo., she said.

Allegiant Flight 880, an Airbus A320, was scheduled to take off at 6:10 p.m. and to arrive at 7:23 p.m. Central Time, according to flightview.com. It ended up taking off for the trip to Belleville at 10:13 p.m. It carried 181 people, including six crew members. No information was available about the kind of bird that was hit or the altitude at which the collision took place.

In 2018, 60 birds were struck by aircraft at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, airport spokeswoman Michele Routh said Tuesday. That was the total number of birds hit, not the total number of incidents, since more than one bird might have been struck by a single aircraft. Tampa International Airport reported 138 wildlife strikes — birds ranging from gulls to egrets to spoonbills, but also bats, an opossum and a coyote — during 2018.

While those incidents didn't make the news, others have. In March 2018, a United Airlines flight bound for San Francisco had to make an emergency landing after it struck a flock of birds shortly after taking off from Tampa International Airport. In October 2015, a Southwest Airlines flight to Tampa returned to Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina after a bird flew into one of the jet's engines.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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