POSTED: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 2:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - 2:04am
CNN — A Southwest Airlines plane made an emergency return to Tennessee's Nashville International Airport on Monday morning because it hit several birds during takeoff, the airline said.
The captain of Flight 3387, which had been bound for Baltimore-Washington International Airport, declared an emergency after birds entered one of the Boeing 737's two engines, Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said.
The plane, which had taken off from the Nashville airport at 6:35 a.m., made a safe landing there shortly afterward, Agnew said.
Firetrucks met the plane as a precaution, but the landing was uneventful, Southwest said. The plane was put out of service for maintenance, and the airline said it was working on other ways to get the plane's 110 passengers to their destination.
Agnew said she didn't know exactly how the bird strike affected the engine.
"Bird strike" is the term used for incidents in which planes collide with birds. Often the creatures get sucked into a plane's engine.
A record 10,726 wildlife strikes by airplanes -- 97% of which involved birds -- were reported in the United States in 2012, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
One of the most famous bird-plane encounters in recent years resulted in the "Miracle on the Hudson." On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 left New York's LaGuardia Airport and ran into a flock of geese that damaged both engines, forcing the crew to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River.
Rescuers reached the aircraft and found passengers standing on its wings. Everyone was rescued.