One of Capt. Bye's C-141 missions entailed flying Army National Guard troops from Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu to Hilo, on the large island of Hawaii. Three shuttles were planned on this particular day.
Right after takeoff on the return flight from Hilo, a large bird(s) hit the C-141 nose cone and effectively destroyed it. While reacting quickly to the explosive sound and signicant airplane vibration that followed, no one on George's crew understood the extent of the damage until they landed. He only knew that the plane had become VERY rough to fly. Debris from the nose cone breaking apart fragmented outward and bounced off - but fortunately not INTO - the turbofan engines of the C-141. Had the engines sucked the fragments in (as what usually occurs) the outcome might have been a diaster. After making an emergency landing back on Hickam AFB the cause of the turbulent flight could be seen. He was amazed when he walked around the front of the plane and saw the nose cone was almost entirely missing. He also noticed that both sides of the airplane and engine intakes had what appeared to be many nose-cone fragment impact scrapes and 'dings'. It was a day to be very grateful - it was truly miraculous that none of the four engines had failed and they landed safely.