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July 15, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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A jet used to ferry Canada's prime minister and top government officials, as well as the British royal family on visits, has been grounded after a mid-air collision possibly with a turkey vulture.

The Challenger jet was on approach to land at the MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on May 24 when it collided with a "very large bird," a defense department official revealed Saturday.

It landed safely but was so badly damaged that it was grounded for several weeks until a temporary fix allowed it to return to Ottawa on July 10.

The bird strike caused damage to the radome and bulkhead, the official told AFP, adding: "Due to the extent of the damage to the aircraft, a course of action for its repair has not yet been determined."

The daily Ottawa Citizen cited an anonymous defense source saying the aircraft may not be returned to service.

There have been more than 50,000 collisions between birds and US military aircraft in recent decades, according to US Air Force statistics cited by the newspaper, costing some $30 million a year.

Turkey vultures, which can have a wingspan of nearly two meters (6.5 feet) and weigh more than two kilograms (4.4 pounds), are said to be a leading cause of plane collision-related costs for the US Air Force.

The Canadian jet had reportedly been travelling to Florida to pick up the head of Canada's special forces, Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, as well as allied special forces officers and return them to Ottawa for a high-level meeting.

After the accident, a second government jet was sent to pick them up.


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