Imagine climbing to 10,000 feet and feeling the thud of a bird on your plane. Then there's so much damage the pilot has to make an emergency landing.
It happened Wednesday to Southwest flight 1388 leaving Tampa for Houston.
Kristina Provencher was a passenger on board.
"The passengers on the left side of the plane looked out toward the wing and said, ‘Holy…,’" she said.
Metal on the left wing was peeled back and the birds caused a hole in the wing. Other travelers in baggage claim at the Tampa International Airport heard about a plane turning around because of a bird strike.
Those passengers reacted with shock when they saw pictures of the plane.
One picture shows the side of the plane dented where birds collided with the fuselage. Provencher said from her seat she could not tell what hit the plane.
"It was just one thud. One very loud thud," she said.
She said the captain told passengers the plane hit a bird, a problem she’d never considered in all her travels.
"I have heard of it happening before on different flights, but I never imagined that it would personally happen to a flight that I was on board," she said.
It turns out airport officials believe it wasn't just one bird.
Airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps speculated larger seagulls or egrets hit the plane because of the extent of the damage.
"It's likely that it was a flock. That is pretty rare for a flock of birds to hit an airplane," she said.
Small bird strikes happen on average 20 times a year as planes take off in Tampa.
The passengers landed in Houston two hours late. The FAA collected the feathers and DNA off the plane.
Samples will be sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. to determine what type of bird caused the damage.