It’s that spring-wonderful season of the year when pilots brush the cobwebs off their flying skills and airplanes and vault joyfully into the blue. Only (in a few unfortunate instances reported to ASRS) to suffer engine fires, or fuel starvation, because the nesting habits of small creatures went undetected during pre-flight. A Cessna pilot titled this narrow escape from a merry mockingbird couple, “Feathered Persistence”:
Preflight after maintenance. Noticed on walkup to aircraft (C-210) something hanging down in front of the right front cylinder. Bird’s nest. Pulled out sticks, grass, bent safety wire and plastic ties could not get it all. Uncowled aircraft under the watchful eyes of 2 mockingbirds. Removed remainder of nest. Mechanic and I re-cowled the aircraft and walked back to his office. Three minutes later, I walked back out and noticed the flicker of a tail inside the cowl. I shooed the bird out. Found more nest material. Cleaned it out and walked around to the pilot’s seat. While adjusting seat belt, the bird flew back inside. How do you win this I didn’t want to hurt the bird, so I left fuel cut off and cranked the starter. Out flew the bird. I primed and started up. The bird flew into the cowl of another Cessna as I made my getaway.
Our reporter came up with a creative and creature-friendly solution that other pilots in similar circumstances may want to consider. Cowling covers that restrict access to the engine compartment are another possibility.