LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s air traffic controllers put pilots on alert this week after a vulture which can soar as high as 30,000 feet escaped from her handlers during a display.
Gandalf, a seven-year-old Ruppell’s Vulture with a three-meter wingspan, has not been seen since she caught a warm thermal during a show at the World of Wings center in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, on Tuesday.
Nats, Britain’s air traffic control company, said it had made pilots aware of the possibility of seeing the bird, while the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, said bird strike is a constant threat to aviation.
“She caught a nice thermal and was gone,” Alan Galloway, director at World of Wings, told Reuters.
“I had a mixture of feelings. She was like a ballerina in the sky, changing from this big lumbering bird on the ground.”
Most airborne collisions involve birds flying into engines, forcing some aircraft into an emergency landing.
In January last year, a US Airways crew ditched their plane in the Hudson River in New York, with no human fatalities, after both engines were effectively disabled by a bird strike.
Gandalf, originally from Africa, can fly for long periods, and could reach the European continent.
Sightings by members of the public have been reported in Inverness, in northern Scotland, to Cornwall in southwest England, but none has been confirmed.
Galloway said he thought it unlikely the bird would pose a threat to aircraft as she would be hungry, flying low in search of food.
A demonstration bird, she has been at World of Wings for six years.
“She’s clever and quite charming, but temperamental and not everybody’s cup of tea,” he added.
Editing by Steve Addison