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Published on Wednesday, March 1, 2006
in the Florida Today

Seagull hits FHP plane but pilot lands safely

PORT ST. JOHN - A seagull shattered half the windshield of a Florida Highway Patrol plane, wreaking temporary havoc in the tiny cabin and forcing its pilot to make an emergency landing on a private ranch near State Road 407.

Sgt. Luis Badia, 42, with the agency since 1999, wasn't hurt. The seagull died, its body dismembered in a bloodied back baggage area.

"It must have been very frightening," FHP spokeswoman Kim Miller said. "We're glad that it landed safely. There's not a whole lot of options out there."

In the sky for more than an hour, Badia repeatedly radioed troopers on road patrol and pinpointed drivers speeding south of the Beachline Expressway on Interstate 95. The agency uses its fleet of seven Cessna planes statewide to enforce speed limits on state roads.

When the seagull struck about 3:30 p.m., Badia maneuvered toward an open field and landed the white Cessna Seahawk, its three tires rolling across grass spotty with manure. The plane's tail end got minor damage from striking a wire fence.

"I was just hoping he was OK," said Trooper Damian Clokes, who had been communicating with Badia earlier. "He just said, 'I have to make an emergency landing.' "

Rescuers in a Brevard County sheriff's helicopter found Badia conscious and walking in the field. They flew him to SR 407, which troopers temporarily closed for the helicopter to land. An awaiting Brevard County Fire-Rescue ambulance then took Badia to Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, where he was later released.

Late Tuesday, troopers awaited the Federal Aviation Administration to do a routine inspection of the plane. The plane later would be towed, Miller said.

"He took a hell of a hit from the bird going through that front windshield," said John Coppola with the Brevard sheriff's aviation unit. "That guy ought to get a medal the way he landed that plane."

FHP Plane Meets Seagull


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