The nose of a charter plane carrying an NBA basketball team has been left with a massive dent after hitting a bird during flight.
Members of the Oklahoma City Thunder were left dumbfounded when they saw the damage after disembarking Delta flight 8935 from Minneapolis at 12:35am Saturday (local time) in Chicago.
No-one was reported hurt. Oklahoma City played the Chicago Bulls later that day after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.
"You never take anything for granted, just be thankful and blessed they we were able to land the plane and everything was OK," Thunder star Russell Westbrook said.
"Seeing stuff like that just shows you how you need to cherish life and understand the important things in life and embrace every moment."
Sharing a picture of the damage on Instagram, player Carmelo Anthony asked: "What possibly could we have hit in the SKY at this time of night?"
Player Steven Adams was equally shocked, tweeting: "We had a rough flight to say the least. 30,000 feet in the air. Flying to Chicago. What caused this?"
In a statement, Delta Airlines said the plane likely came in contact with a bird while landing.
"Delta flight 8935, operating from Minneapolis to Chicago-Midway as a charter flight for the Oklahoma City Thunder, likely encountered a bird while on descent into Chicago," the statement said.
"The aircraft, a Boeing 757-200, landed safely without incident … Safety is Delta's top priority."
"Must've been a pretty big bird — a Pterodactyl maybe," Thunder forward Nick Collison said.
Collison was watching the show Stranger Things when he felt the plane drop for a second like a "roller-coaster".
"It's one of those moments you bow your head and thank the man above," Westbrook said.
Coach Billy Donovan said the plane encountered turbulence about halfway through the flight.
"The plane dropped a little bit," Donovan said.
"Then they just basically told us they were trying to get to a lower altitude because they maybe were concerned about the cabin pressure.
"We landed safely. Thank God everybody was safe."
Bird strikes top list of most common aviation incidents
According to data from the US Federal Aviation Administration about 92 per cent of bird strikes with commercial civil aircrafts occur below 3,500 feet, but bird strikes between 20,000-31,300 feet are not impossible.
From 1990-2013, there were 21 strikes with commercial aircraft travelling above 20,000 feet.
However, in most instances engines are the component that sustain the most damage — not the nose cone.
Users on social media have drawn some comparisons to a 2015 Delta flight which was hit by "baseball-sized" hailstones forcing an emergency landing.
In July, an Air Asia X flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Brisbane after a suspected bird strike.
Occurrences involving aircraft striking wildlife are the most common aviation incidents reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.