Dangerous Competition in The Air

Treasures From The Pioneer Era, reported by Ernie Tanner:

Vultures and goshawks are much larger in Africa than in Europe. They can reach a wingspan of 6.5 to 10 feet (2-3 m) and represent significant danger for aircraft. The engine of a passenger plane was blocked just after take-off by one of these birds that had been strolling about on the runway and was sucked into the turbines. The plane crashed.

Another time, a vulture attacked a small mission plane, smashed through the windshield into the cockpit and caused the plane to crash, killing the pilot.

I once had a very narrow escape when I was busy in 1988 on the Upper Nile in Sudan supplying food and medication to the people isolated by the flooded Nile. The Red Cross was flying powdered wheat, soya and milk in a Hercules transport plane from Port Sudan to Merowe on the southern bank of the Nile, and I was transporting the sacks across the river to the distribution center. The temperature was around 122° F(50 °C) and it wasn’t easy to concentrate in such heat.

I had just delivered a load in the cargo net. The ground crew hung the empty nets, packed inside one another, in the special hooks underneath so that I could take them back to Merowe as usual. I had just climbed above the village when I noticed a few goshawks circling above and before me. These raptors feel dominant as long as they can fly above their prey, so knowing this tactic I tried to outwit them by performing a climbing maneuver. However, my mobility was severely hampered by the attached nets, and some of these beasts actually attacked me. Strangely enough, they are incapable of gauging the size of an aircraft. With an effort I was able to prevent the first one from smashing into the cabin. The second aimed straight for me. I felt a dull thump on the main rotor and it was all over. The bird was caught by the main rotor blade only 6.5 feet (2 m) from me. Some onlookers watched the drama from below on the ground and saw the bird fall, sliced in two. If he had slammed into the cabin or the rotor controls, it would have been me crashing down. Better him than me!