Hear how JFK air traffic controllers guided a Chinese cargo plane back to safety after an engine failed due to a bird strike

  • A China Cargo flight suffered a right engine failure after a bird strike at JFK on Monday.

  • The pilots asked to return to the airport, but there were some communication difficulties.

  • After some repetition, the ATC was able to safely guide the Boeing 777 back to JFK.

A Chinese cargo flight was forced to return to New York's JFK Airport shortly after takeoff on Monday after suffering a possible bird strike, the Federal Aviation Administration told Business Insider.

The Boeing 777 operated by China Cargo had just departed for Shanghai when the pilots alerted air traffic control, according to an audio recording shared on YouTube by VASAviation.

The pilots repeatedly call "PAN-PAN" — an urgency signal which differs from mayday as there is no imminent danger to life, although emergency services may still be needed.

Communication was impaired due to the language barrier, with the air traffic controller often having to repeat questions, according to a recording of the incident shared by popular YouTube channel VASAviation.

The ATC instructed the pilots to climb to 11,000 feet while they tried to explain they wanted to stay at an altitude of 5,000 feet because the right engine had failed due to a bird strike.

"I'm sorry sir, say again?" the controller asks in the eight-minute-long audio clip.

The audio appears to show that while directing the Boeing 777 away from land to dump fuel, ATC had to ask twice what the problem with the aircraft was.

"I just need to know the nature of the condition," he said. "Why return to JFK?"

But after some initial difficulties, communication went more smoothly. With only one working engine, the cargo plane circled over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Long Island, where it dumped fuel.

The FAA said the plane landed safely at JFK, and the agency will investigate the incident.

According to the FAA's Wildlife Strike Database, there were about 17,000 incidents of wildlife striking civil aircraft in the US last year.

China Cargo did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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