Release #08.041C
August 14, 2008

Delta First Officer Joseph Stafford Receives ALPA’s Superior Airmanship Award
Atlanta, Ga., pilot recognized for superior airmanship skills exhibited during bird strike incident

WASHINGTON—The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), will recognize Delta Air Lines (DAL) First Officer Joseph Stafford with the ALPA Superior Airmanship Award for his outstanding effort in handling multiple bird strikes to DAL Flight 77, a Boeing-767-400 ER passenger airliner providing service from Rome Fiumicino International Airport to Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on July 7, 2007.

“The actions of the pilots of Delta Flight 77 underscore the importance of a trained, experienced flight crew ready to act decisively at a moment’s notice,” said ALPA President, Capt. John Prater.

The extended-range airliner was almost full, with 277 passengers and approximately 149,000 pounds of fuel. While the heavy airplane was accelerating down the runway for takeoff, a large flock of birds flew directly in its path.

One gull struck the left windshield with significant force, and the crew heard even more hits as they climbed into the sky. As the captain reduced power at 1,500 feet, the pilots noticed some vibration in the engines. By the time the airplane had reached 4,000 feet, the vibrations were felt throughout the aircraft.

The crew quickly began formulating a plan to deal with what their judgment and the airplane were telling them—the heavy B-767 needed to return to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. The captain declared an emergency.

Working quickly and with superb coordination, the pilots began to maneuver the damaged airplane back to the airport. After executing all the appropriate procedures to ensure the aircraft was properly prepared for landing, the crew gently and expertly guided the airliner to a safe touchdown on the same runway they departed from just moments earlier.

“These pilots demonstrated the highest level of professional skills, including coordinated teamwork, experience, and training. This is the difference in a crisis between disaster and success. This is the difference that protects the lives of our passengers and safely delivers them to their destination,” said Delta Master Executive Council Chairman Lee Moak.

“The safe outcome of this incident and positive result with our passengers is entirely attributable to a fantastic job by a very professional crew,” said Delta Air Lines Senior Vice President of Flight Operations, Capt. Steve Dickson.

This award will be presented today at ALPA’s 54th Annual Air Safety & Security Week and Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C. ALPA will also honor Stafford’s colleagues, Capt. Peter Hupperich and First Officer Edward Calzolari, with a Superior Airmanship Award for their contributions that helped ensure the successful outcome of this harrowing event.

Founded in 1931, ALPA represents 55,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit for more information.

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CONTACT: Pete Janhunen, Linda Shotwell, Molly Martin, (703) 481-4440