US Airways Violates Federal Migratory Bird Laws

US Airways Violates Federal Migratory Bird Laws

US Airways violated Federal migratory bird regulations by hunting geese with an A320 Airbus jetliner, claim anonymous government sources. The pilot of flight 1549, Air Force veteran and avid hunter Chesley B. Sullenberger, tried combining both of his interests by bagging a brace of geese over the wetlands near New York’s LaGuardia airport after takeoff, on his way to Charlotte, North Carolina.

The imported $77 million A320 airliner is not certified for either waterfowl or upland bird hunting, so it was not surprising that the aircraft malfunctioned, forcing Captain Sullenberger to ditch the plane in the Hudson River. The crew and 150 passengers were chilled and shaken but unhurt. Most were simply grateful to avoid spending the weekend in Charlotte.

National Transportation Safety Board inspectors, rushed to the scene, reportedly found no Duck Stamps on the downed aircraft’s fuselage. Captain Sullenberger has not been charged but is being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. PETA is urging the government to prosecute the pilot for double honkercide and poaching, and the animal rights group is expected to file a civil suit on behalf of the flock.

The two victims were undocumented aliens, according to sources close to the investigation, Canada geese who had over-stayed their visas. Their goose gang scandalized their quiet Queens community by squatting in local cemeteries and golf courses, parking on the grass, cooking strange-smelling food and throwing wild parties late into the night. Neighbors say police dogs were called out on several occasions. Such incidents have triggered a wave of anti-Canada goose sentiment, but at this time revenge or hate crime motives are not suspected in the US Airways bird bashings.

Forensic examination of the avian corpses continues, and technicians are analyzing the two cadavers under heat with chestnuts, prunes, and Armagnac. NTSB inspectors have contributed a supply of testing fluid, a 2005 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling from Alsace. We will update this story as entrees details become available.

Note:The aircraft took off from La Guardia Airport before hitting the birds. La Guardia is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority’s logo is a bird.


Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

31 Responses to “US Airways Violates Federal Migratory Bird Laws”

  1. kelley Bell Says:

    Very GOOD Mike.

    That opening line was brilliant.

  2. mikeb302000 Says:

    Thanks for a good laugh. That was a wonderful post.

  3. Lynn Says:

    Actually Captain Sully was planning on landing in the Atlantic to pick up oysters for the first course, but the choppy waters prevented that!

  4. Arless Says:

    Which is why the frantic search is on for the perfectly crispy goose in the missing engine.

  5. Mike Licht Says:


    The dedication of the NTSB investigators is understandable. High-bypass turbofan engines cook goose to perfection while removing the excess grease. Many professional chefs use the CFM International CFM56 series; others prefer the two-shaft IAE V2500. Jenn-Air is working on a version for the home cook.

  6. The Grey Goose Says:

    If Capt. Sullenberger only knew that Candian geese have the right of way, then this whole incident never would have happened!

  7. Jim Maloney Says:

    As the late Marion Jones Callister, who served as a U. S. District Judge in the District of Idaho from 1976 until his death in 1997, wrote in the case of United States v. Rollins, 706 F.Supp. 742, in 1989: “A homeowner could be pursued under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act if a flock of geese crashed into his plate-glass window and were killed. An airplane pilot could be prosecuted if geese were sucked into his jet engines.” But, hey, geese stopped being migratory birds here in the New York area a long time ago. They hang out all winter, eating whatever civilization has to offer and leaving their greenish turds in return. Seems to me they’re outlaws now, and fair game!

  8. Grok Says:

    Hmm, to return the favor generating a backlink…

    I don’t know if global warming was the place to promote this [Ed. note: Canada Geese migrate due to food shortage, not as a seasonal instinct]… but your blog should certainly be in this blog directory.

  9. Shirley Says:


  10. frizztext Says:

    set a link to your thought provoking comment at

  11. Doug Powers Says:

    Ha! Excellent!

  12. Westrock-Bob Says:

    Official obituary for the late George the Goose.


  13. mazzilliu Says:

    The pilot did not attack the geese, the geese attacked the pilot! We should be giving that guy a medal for preventing deaths caused by a terrorist attack.

  14. Bob Says:

    Still you people are missinng the REAL story: After a decade of trying to clean up the Hudson River, these jihadi geese conspired with US Airways in a pathetic attempt to get sympathy for theuir mutual plights at the River’s expense.

    All that pollution: Plane engine, seat cushions, plane, jet fuel, spilled bad airplane coffee…….Gaia Screams in Agony!

    I understand the RiverKeepers are petitioning the Feds to pile on appropriate criminal charges.

  15. Mike Licht Says:

    [From our flickr site]

    grybold2 says:

    The other night on CNN, they asked an “expert” what airports do about birds. The “expert” replied that some airports do nothing, some airports use dogs (but that only clears the immediate airfield; not 1000 or 2000 or 3000 feet on either end of the runways, and some airports use the birds’ natural predator; a trained hawk or eagle to fly around when unwanted birds near the airport.

    Even with a hawk or eagle, a flock of Canadian Geese could be flying several thousand feet overhead, and several thousand feet away from the airport and still encounter a plane ascending or descending a mile or more away from the airport.

    (once commercial planes have ascended to normal altitude, they do not encounter birds as birds do not fly that high. The only problem is take-off and landing)

    The Solution: SCREENS over the intakes! I believe screens are OLD technology.

  16. Bob Says:

    First of all, we ren’t going to solve the “problem” here at all. Too many variables.

    Second, engines are tested for bird ingestion, and will handle the occasional avian. 1549 encountered an apparently huge flock that caused multiple ingestions to both engines. That is a statistical anomaly that we’d be trying to decide if the slim chance of risk is worth the cost of implementing any fix. Anyone remember the ValuJet crash into the Everglades? An element of that “fix” pushed for smoke detectors in the cargo holds, but the airlines balked hard at that. Sure, the detector was only $100 – but the lifetime cost of it, with inspections and maintenance, acros a fleet of planes was into the millions.

    Third, LaGuardia is in the Borough of Queens, and I believe the strike happened over the Bronz. Google Earth has that 3-5 miles away. No neighborhood is going to want a fix that has to cover over 20 square miles. Moreover, no hawk is going to fly near aircraft either.

    Fourth, “screens.” First of all, a screen over the intake is going to kill airflow and ergo kill engine performance. Remember, a sccreen with large holes, at that impact, will simply slice and dice the bird and still send the parts through the plane. A smaller screen sufficient to stop that will exacerbate airflow. It would never get past the airlines. But, better yet, all a screen would do is hold the bird in place. Engine would not die from bird ingestion, but it would still die from suffocation.

    Lastly, it is unlikely that the enginer failure was “catastrophic” to the engine itself. It is very likely that all the components stayed intact but the bird “goo” ended up killing the burner can. The flames seen by the passengers was likely burning goo added to a post-burner can flame-out of unburnt fuel. It is far more likely that any damage to the engine itself occurred on impact with the water.

  17. Mike Licht Says:

    Bob Says: believe the strike happened over the Bronx.

    There is evidence to believe the the geese escaped from Riker’s Island, site of a NYC prison (really).

    The flames seen by the passengers was likely burning goo added to a post-burner can flame-out of unburnt fuel.

    Oven fires are common with goose due to all the grease and fat.

    We aren’t going to solve the “problem” here at all.

    I have faith that culinary commenters will agree on a consensus goose recipe very shortly.

  18. Bob Says:


    Hear! Hear! Back on track! That said, there WOULD be one benefit to your screen Idea:


    Let’s talk recipes.

  19. Dennis Says:

    The only problem with properly preparing goose via a jet-b-q, is that the airlines would have to upgrade the quality of the spirits onboard…which costs, and so they aren’t likely to go for that either. I’m thinking that the NTSB (National Transportation Savory Board – a little known ancillary committe of the DOT) should really push this requirement through Congress. Hey – even better thought … subsidies for the airlines to cover the increased cost from the money in the bailout plan … after all, isn’t bailout an aviation concept?

  20. JetAviator7 Says:

    To bad the hunter couldn’t keep his kill – but the real question is did the birds die from the collision or drown in the river?

    They need to do an autopsy on the birds to find out what really happened to them. Perhaps Gary Sinese and CIS New York could to that for us.

  21. Sully’s Savory Secrets « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] Sullenburger cooked a pair of geese in New York, but dined on fried chicken in […]

  22. Sully’s Savory Sky-Chef Secrets « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] Sullenburger cooked a pair of geese in New York, but dined on fried chicken in […]

  23. J.D. Says:

    Really enjoyed it. Was sent the link by a friend in Charlotte. Can’t seem to find “honkercide” in my law dictionaries, but will keep looking.

  24. Mike Licht Says:

    JD says: Can’t seem to find “honkercide” in my law dictionaries, but will keep looking.

    I am the only one on my block in DC who isn’t a lawyer, but you might look at international compacts between countries along the Atlantic Flyway (suggested search terms:TNC Element Code ABNJB05030, Branta canadensis, Canada Goose/Bernache du Canada) or in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (pages 413, 417).

  25. Luke Says:

    @Jim Maloney

    You are ignoring the rest of the quote. The ruling was actually against such a strict interpretation of the MBTA.

    “A homeowner could be pursued under the [Migratory Bird Treaty Act] if a flock of geese crashed into his plate-glass window and were killed. An airplane pilot could be prosecuted if geese were sucked into his jet engines. A farmer . . . could be exposed to sanctions because he tended his crops in the same manner as other area farmers. These examples make one queasy about the reach of strict liability criminal statutes.”

    @Mike Licht

    Actually, geese do fly that high. Bar-Headed geese have been observed at 29,000 Ft, and swans and vultures higher. However, 95% of migration is believed to happen below 10,000 ft.

  26. wowman Says:

    Would we be doing this if it turned out differnt?

  27. Mike Licht Says:

    wowman says: Would we be doing this if it turned out differnt?

    You mean if the geese turned out to be under-cooked? Man, I hate when that happens.

  28. Bob Says:

    Of course if it had turned out different…..but it didn’t. Enjoy.
    PS: Sully’s up on illegal dumping charges too!

  29. Lynn Says:

    Forget about all the technicalities, I’m convinced that Sully was impatient and looking for an easy way out! Afterall, plucking feathers is a tiring job! And Rachel Ray with her 30 minute meals,….. well, he just wanted to get the goose in the oven if you ask me!

  30. Mad Bluebird Says:


  31. Bird-Killer ‘Sully’ Sullenberger Forced to Retire by Audubon Society « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III, infamous for an airborne goose slaughtering episode, retired Wednesday. Bird watchers claim the powerful Audubon Society pressured him to stop […]

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