A helicopter pilot in Miami picked up an unexpected passenger mid-flight last week – a turkey vulture that crashed through his windshield.
Paul Appleton and a friend were flying to Sun Life Stadium to shoot video before the Super Bowl when the bird abruptly dropped in.
“I had seen a turkey buzzard a little bit [in front of] my aircraft,” Appleton told WLBZ 2. “I lost sight of it for a second, and then I heard a boom.”
The bird smashed through front of the windshield, landing on Appleton in the cockpit.
“All of a sudden, I have a turkey vulture sitting on my lap, up against my chest, and on my forearm,” said Appleton, adding that he suffered a minor scratch to his forehead, and his headset and glasses were partially knocked off.
His friend, sitting next to him, shot video of the turkey as it remained awake, but largely still.
“It was a pretty big bird,” Appleton said.
He counted himself and his passenger fortunate that they remained in the air.
“I was lucky the buzzard didn’t knock my hand off the controls,” Appleton said, noting they were flying 80 to 90 mph with the wind whipping around inside the chopper through the gaping hole.
The bird remained on his lap during the 20-mile ride until he landed the aircraft.
Once the helicopter was back on the ground, the bird flew away. Appleton called for an animal control ambulance, but by then the bird was gone.