How Bird Strikes Can Impact the Airlines

Bird and flight agaisnt sky
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Bird strikes were brought to the public forefront on January 15, 2009, when US Airways Flight 1549 made an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after being struck by a flock of Canada geese after taking off from LaGuardia Airport.

As the North American snow goose population continues to grow, they are being seen more near marshes outside airport fences, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Between 1990 and 2015, 130 strikes involving snow geese and civil aircraft were reported in the United States, including seven in 2015. About 85 percent of strikes occurred during climb and descent phases of flight at greater than 500 feet and 75 percent of then occurred at night. ​

Globally, wildlife strikes have killed more than 262 people and destroyed more than 247 aircraft since 1988. The number of U.S. airports with strikes reported increased from 334 in 1990 to a record 674 in 2015. The 674 airports with strikes reported in 2015 were comprised of 404 passenger service airports

Research is being done by the FAA and the USDA to develop procedures and technologies, including avian radar and aircraft lighting, to reduce these off-airport bird strikes. A bird strike is a collision between birds and an aircraft, with geese and gulls among those that cause damage because of their weight and size.

Birds are a threat to safety for crew and passengers on board as they can cause major damage to an airplane in a short period of time and sometimes that lack of time to recover can lead to injuries or fatalities. They most often occur during take-off or landing, or during low-altitude flight, when an airplane is most likely to be sharing the same airspace as a bird. 

Take-offs can be particularly dangerous, given the higher speeds and the angle of ascent. If a bird gets caught in an engine during take-off it can greatly affect the functionality of the engine, as illustrated in US Airways Flight 1549.

 Usually, the nose, engine or forward part of an aircraft's wing are the places most affected by a bird strike. 

What can airlines do to reduce the incidence of bird strikes? Airports have initiatives that are commonly known as bird management or bird control. Areas around the aerodrome are made as unappealing as possible to birds. Also, devices are used to scare off birds - sounds, lights, decoy animals, and dogs are a few examples.