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CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – An Allegiant flight was forced to return to the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) after birds struck the plane shortly after takeoff early Wednesday morning.

According to Allegiant, flight 996, which was bound for Omaha, Nebraska, left PIE around 6:49 a.m. The airline said birds struck the plane a short time later, prompting an emergency landing.

Allegiant said declaring an emergency is a standard procedure to “ensure that a flight receives priority handling when it lands.” The captain returned to PIE, where the plane landed normally and was taxied to the gate under its own power.

Passengers on the flight were deplaned normally and no injuries were reported. According to Allegiant, the plane is currently being inspected and assessed.

While the grounded plane is being inspected, a replacement aircraft was dispatched so passengers could arrive safely at Eppley Airfield in Omaha.

“We are very sorry for the inconvenience. A replacement aircraft has been dispatched to continue the flight and take the passengers to Omaha, Neb,” the airline said in a statement to