A bird strike to an engine forced an Alaska Airlines flight en route from San Jose to Honolulu to make an emergency landing at Oakland International Airport on Wednesday morning, officials said.
The Boeing 737, carrying 157 passengers and six crew members, landed without incident, and no injuries were reported.
The plane, Alaska Flight 837 to Honolulu, took off from Mineta San Jose International Airport at 8:31 a.m. About 8:40 a.m., as the aircraft was ascending, the pilots felt a vibration in the engine, and flight crews suspected the plane had hit a bird during takeoff.
They reported the incident to traffic controllers at San Jose airport, where crews combed airport property and found feathers and the remains of a bird on the runway used by the plane, airport spokeswoman Vicki Day said. They could not identify the species because the remains were so badly mangled, Day said.
As a precaution, the pilots decided to land in Oakland, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey said.
Firefighters and other emergency personnel were on hand for the landing, which occurred without incident about 9 a.m. Passengers and crew were transferred to another Alaska Airlines jet, and the flight took off for Hawaii at 10 a.m., Lindsey said.
"The engine fan blades had been damaged, and that's typically a bird strike," Lindsey said.
Bird strikes have been a growing problem at San Jose airport, caused in part by the skyrocketing population of California Gulls. From 2003 to 2012, seagulls collided with airplanes 57 times at the airport, a 50 percent jump from the previous decade.
In June 2012, gulls hit a Southwest Airlines jet landing in San Jose, causing $50,000 damage to an engine. In 2009, a United Airlines flight carrying 140 passengers was forced to abort a takeoff after it hit 10 gulls, damaging an engine and its radar system while racing down a rainy runway.
Under pressure from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airport spent $100,000 this year to hire a biologist to harass and even shoot gulls and other birds that could put flights at risk. So far, at least one bird has been shot, Day said Wednesday.
Most of the gulls' population boom has been south of the San Mateo Bridge, so neither San Francisco International Airport nor Oakland airport has reported an increase in gull strikes. In April 2012, however, a United Airlines 747 bound for Hong Kong from San Francisco was climbing after takeoff when a gull flew into its engine, causing vibration and stalling. The plane returned to the airport to make an emergency landing.
Probably the most well-known bird strike in history occurred in 2009, when Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, of Danville, famously hit a flock of Canada geese after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia Airport. After his US Airways jet lost power, he was forced to make a daring landing on the Hudson River.
Wednesday's emergency landing in Oakland came just a few hours before another incident involving a plane at that same airport. About 11:43 a.m. Oakland firefighters responded to the airport for a report of a plane engine on fire.
Airport spokeswoman Kim Domerofski said that Allegiant Air flight 1062 to Bellingham, Wash., was at the gate getting ready to depart when the ground crew noticed a flame in the plane's No. 2 engine.
When fire crews arrived, they determined the MD80 plane was not on fire.
"It's not unusual for a flame to show up right when a plane is start, but to be safe they deplaned the passengers and maintenance is checking out the plane," Domerofski said.
"The passengers will be reaccommodated on another flight this afternoon."
It was not immediately known how many passengers were on board.
Staff writer Paul Rogers contributed to this report.