A deer hit by an American Eagle plane taking off at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Wednesday did not reach the airfield through an opening in the perimeter fence, airport officials said Thursday.
The deer was hit by an American Airlines regional jet that was taking off at 11:41 a.m. The crew declared an emergency and returned to the airport, safely landing at 12:15 p.m.
The American Eagle plane was headed to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport in Mississippi with 44 passengers and four crew members aboard. No one was injured.
On Thursday, the airport released a statement about the collision, in part saying Charlotte Douglas conducts “numerous daily inspections of the perimeter fence. After the incident occurred, the Airport inspected the perimeter fence and determined the deer did not access the airfield through an opening in the fence.”
The airport is surrounded by over 19 miles of barbed wire-topped perimeter fencing.
The statement also said the airport on Feb. 3 proposed several enhancements to its perimeter fence. The improvements include raising the height of the fence to 10 feet to reduce “the potential for unauthorized access” and installing a “perimeter intrusion detection system,” according to the statement.
That suggests the airport officials believe that the deer might have leaped over the fence.
“Based on current responses the Aviation Department has received to date, we believe CLT will be on the leading edge of emerging best practices for perimeter security,” the airport said.
“Safety and security are CLT’s top priority, and the Airport considers every animal strike to be a serious one,” Thursday’s statement said.
Steps the airport previously took to keep wildlife off runways included removing vegetation and patrolling the airfields daily.
“These measures have resulted in a reduction in reported deer sightings,” airport officials said. “Due to the Airport’s Wildlife Hazard Management Program, the number of observed deer inside the perimeter fence has significantly decreased from 70 in 2011 to 2 in 2016.”