Mike Conley: Bird Strike Felt Like Jazz's Plane Was 'Breaking Apart in Midair'

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IIApril 1, 2021

Utah Jazz players huddle before play against the Orlando Magic during an NBA basketball game, Saturday Feb. 27, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
Joe Skipper/Associated Press

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley provided a detailed account of his experience when the team plane hit a flock of birds upon takeoff a day earlier.  

"It was obvious that something was really wrong with the plane. It felt like the plane was breaking apart in midair," he told reporters Wednesday. "For five, 10 minutes, it felt like just complete helplessness." 

According to Spencer Burt of Fox 13, the chartered Delta plane hit birds as it took off from Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday afternoon. As a result, the plane's left jet engine failed and caught on fire. The pilot made an emergency landing, and no injuries to humans were reported. 

Sean Moody @SeanMoodyPhoto

Based on @flightradar24 data, Delta 8944 leveled off at about 8,200 feet after taking off from runway 35, headed south across the valley, and configured for a landing back on runway 34L. https://t.co/aOk89KzGA6

Shortly after, the team flew in a new plane to Memphis, where they defeated the Grizzlies on Wednesday. 

"All of a sudden, it felt like there was an explosion," Conley said Wednesday. "That's what it sounded like for most people on the plane, like we hit something big. The plane immediately started to bounce and then just started tilting to the left." 

Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson also shared his experience from the incident, explaining that emotions were running high even as pilots came out to explain what had happened and informed the team that they would begin the process of making an emergency landing.

"We were all looking out the window, like 'Man, just land this. Just land anywhere. We don't care. We'll check everything else later once we get on the ground. Just please put this plane on the ground,'" he told reporters after the win Wednesday, per the Associated Press

With the incident behind them, the Jazz won their seventh straight game Wednesday and will go for an eighth against the Chicago Bulls on Friday at 9 p.m. ET.