The FAA cautions that it's too early to pinpoint the cause of today's jet crash, but early reports have focused on a flock of geese. Such bird strikes—they get sucked into the engines—are an increasingly familiar problem for pilots, the Daily News reports. LaGuardia in particular is plagued by geese that live on nearby Rikers Island, but the numbers culled have shrunk in recent years as animal-rights activists have stepped up their efforts.
"Bird strikes have become more of a problem the last few years," said a former Navy pilot and aviation professor at MIT. Nationwide, they cause about $600 million of damage each year. JFK even employs falcons to keep other birds at bay, Popular Science notes. The last major bird-related crash occurred in 1995, when a military jet crashed in Alaska, killing 24. Scores of small-plane incidents are reported yearly.