Over the weekend, a US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III from California's March Air Reserve Base made an appearance at the air show to demonstrate its capabilities as the US' "most flexible cargo aircraft."
While the US praises the aircraft's abilities to meet today's military demands, the 174-foot long, four-engine-powered behemoth saw its moment in the spotlight quickly snatched away after a curious bird flew too close to one of its turbo engines.
Video footage captured by HD Melbourne Aviation shows the C-17 Globemaster beginning a takeoff drive down a runway at Australia's Avalon Airport when suddenly two large birds appear, marking the beginning of a fatal encounter.
Eight seconds into the recording, one bird flies straight into the jet's far-right engine, setting off a fiery explosion on impact. The other bird, likely unaware of its friend's demise, is seen flying off into the distance.
Mitchell Getson, an aviation photographer who attended the show, managed to capture the moment in one of his shots. He told The Drive that prior to the incident, he noticed there had been a large number of birds congregating in the area.
"A [Royal New Zealand Air Force] C-130 almost had a strike with a large flock of birds early in the day's displays," Getson said. "[The C-17 cargo plane] lined up for departure, it commenced its takeoff roll and ingested a large bird into the 4th engine (two flew across, only one was ingested)."
"The C-17 didn't fly again for the remainder of the show," he added. According to The Aviationist, this suggests that either the bird strike caused significant damage, or the plane just needed to undergo a detailed inspection.
The danger that birds pose to aircraft isn't exactly unheard of. For years, planes have been forced to make emergency landings as a result of one or more birds getting a little too close to the engines.
US Airways Flight 1549, publicly recognized as the Miracle on the Hudson incident, wound up landing on the Hudson River in January 2009 after both of the plane's engines shut down upon striking a flock of Canadian geese.
Bird strikes have gotten so bad that the US Department of Defense even started the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard program in the early 2000s "in an effort to provide the safest flying conditions possible." The Pentagon estimates that bird strikes involving military aircraft have caused damages worth more than $75 million every year.
In April 2018, a bird strike forced a Blue Angels plane to cut its flight at Florida's Vero Beach Air Show short. At the time, air show spokesperson Catherine Caddell told TCPalm that the mishap caused $1 million in engine damage.