TWO small kestrel chicks have been found alive in the exhaust of an Airbus A320 passenger jet. 

The plane was brought into a hanger at the St Athan aerodrome, near Cardiff Airport, when a technician spotted two pairs of eyes staring back at him. 

The aircraft has been on the runway at the maintenance base since August last year but was moved into the hanger for repairs, and it’s thought the chicks hadn’t been fed by their mother since the plane was removed from the runway. 

Staff fed the chicks cooked chicken and gave them water, before calling the RSPCA and helping an officer from the animal welfare charity remove them from the aircraft. 

Paul Nash, manager for maintenance firm Caerdav, said it was fortunate the plane’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) hadn’t been started before it was moved. 

He said: “Two technicians, Umit Atas and Luciano Ferriera, were making their way up the tail section of the aircraft in a cherry picker, when Umit spotted what looked like two pairs of eyes staring at him from inside the exhaust of the Auxiliary Power Unit. 

“Umit saw that the pairs of eyes belonged to two chicks. 

Normally we would operate the APU before entering the hangar to carry out function checks - this wasn’t needed otherwise the chicks would have met an untimely and scary end to their short lives.” 

The National Wales: Workers helped an RSPCA officer rescue the two chicks from the plane's exhaust. Pictures: RSPCAWorkers helped an RSPCA officer rescue the two chicks from the plane's exhaust. Pictures: RSPCA

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Paul said other staff tried guessing what the birds were: “None of the staff thought about kestrels until we had confirmation from the RSPCA." 

Engineer Colin Harrison removed the APU exhaust clamp and slid a thin piece of board between the APU rear turbine and exhaust, to prevent the chicks getting trapped. 

RSPCA inspector Simon Evans was then able to pull the chicks to safety via a hook, before removing them by hand. 

The birds, nicknamed Umit and Lucky after the two men who first found them, have since been taken to the Gower Bird Hospital for urgent rehabilitation and care. 

Inspector Simon said: "These little chicks are lucky to be alive - and we're so relieved and grateful to the engineers who spotted them and sounded the alarm. 

 "These chicks were very hungry, and I have no doubt were rescued just in the nick of time, as they hadn't eaten for a number of days since the aircraft had been moved inside. 

 "Kestrels are less common than a lot of people think - but rescuing any animal from an aircraft is certainly a new one on me. We're just so very lucky mechanics hadn't started the aircraft's engine or this would have ended in disaster. 

 "The chicks are now in the safe hands of our friends at Gower Bird Hospital. It's only a short journey west of St Athan, so there'll be no jet lag for these lucky kestrels." 

Kestrels have an amber conservation status in the UK - and the RSPB says numbers declined in the 1970s. There's approximately 46,000 breeding pairs in the UK, and they live on a diet of small mammals, birds, worms and insects. 

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