Budget airline Ryanair has denied accusations that its planes are made of paper and old tin foil after a flight from Frankfurt to Rome was forced to make an emergency landing.
The carrier said the plane had experienced problems after a 30g sparrow struck the engine as it came in to land at Ciampino Airport. Passengers left the Boeing 737 using emergency chutes. Italian government investigators are examing a 3mm section of feather found on the runway.
Chief Executive Michael O'Leary angrily hit back at claims that flights are cheap because his planes are so fragile and poorly made that a small bird weighing less than an apple can almost take off a wing.
But Ryanair has had trouble with flying creatures obstructing its aircraft before. In 2005 a flight to Wroclaw, Poland was diverted to Warsaw after a dragonfly landed on the runway and refused to move, and in 1999 an escaped budgie closed Stansted airport in London after nesting on the terminal roof and repeatedly shitting onto the waiting planes.