In 1994, I was sitting in the right seat in an EA-6B, with LT Tom Kirchhoff flying as the pilot, on a low-level flight through Southern France. At about 500 feet and 500 knots, a black bird flew straight into the center of Tom’s windscreen. The beak of the bird came right through the glass. The dynamic pressure at that speed ripped the body of the bird off. However, the beak and the rest of the head of the bird stayed with the airplane. Tom pulled off the low-level, climbed and leveled off at a safe airspeed and altitude. It looked like the bird and Tom were having a staring contest. Tom kept saying that the bird was freaking him out. “He’s staring at me!” Tom exclaimed.
We flew back toward the ship as soon as we could. The ship was heading directly into the setting sun. The reflection of the sun was scattered throughout the spiderweb of broken glass. So, Tom was forced to land on the ship with an evil-looking bird’s face staring at him through all the glare. We were, of course, worried that the windscreen would break.
I had to play airborne psychologist. I kept telling Tom, “You got this. We’re gonna land on the first pass.” Tom had his head craned off to the left, so he could see through the one part of the windscreen that didn’t have a bird’s head or a crack in it. I’m sure it was quite unsettling.
In my head I was praying, “Please God, let him land on the first pass.” The prayer must’ve helped. Tom got aboard right away. We were both glad the windscreen didn’t fail. It took a few weeks to get it replaced.
That was crazy!