Air Force Two carrying Biden struck by birds, lands safely

Air Force Two, the Boeing C-32 plane carrying Vice President Joe Biden, arrives at Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv March 8, 2010. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Air Force Two plane carrying Vice President Joe Biden was struck by birds in California on Thursday, a spokeswoman for his office said, but it landed without problem and the vice president, passengers and crew were safe at all times.

The incident occurred on Thursday night as Air Force Two was landing in Santa Barbara, California. A person familiar with the situation said the landing felt normal to people on board.

“The vice president left Santa Barbara this afternoon as scheduled, aboard an alternate U.S. Air Force aircraft,” the spokeswoman said.

Lieutenant Gregg Johnson of the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, which is responsible for transporting the president, vice president and other senior U.S. officials, said the crew and passengers of Air Force Two had been “safe at all times.”

“There was no emergency - no emergency landing declared,” he said, adding it was not possible at this stage to characterize the level of damage, if any, that the modified Boeing 757 aircraft sustained in the bird strike.

Another bird strike on Thursday forced a Delta Air Lines flight bound for Los Angeles to make an emergency return to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In January 2009, a US Airways flight made a successful emergency landing in the Hudson River after it struck a flock of geese shortly after take-off from New York’s LaGuardia airport. All 155 passengers and crew survived.

Air safety incidents involving the U.S. president or vice president are rare, but not unprecedented.

Air Force One aborted a landing due to bad weather while carrying President Barack Obama to an event in Connecticut last May. One month earlier, an aircraft carrying first lady Michelle Obama was ordered to abandon its landing approach to Andrews Air Force Base in order to avoid another plane.

Reporting By Alister Bull; Editing by Peter Cooney