Friday, December 13, 2013

Airplanes Are Hitting The Birds Most Of The Times

Over a three-year period, airplanes in one region were on average striking birds at a rate of 92.7 %.  For every 100 landing or take-offs almost 93 of the birds were struck at or near an airport. The other seven birds either were avoided by pilot actions as an abrupt movement or rejected takeoff. The key to manage is to reduce bird activity near airports.

Birds is a hazard to aviation safety. The goal is to avoid as many as possible, but travelling at high speed it is not often enough distance available to avoid one or a flock of birds. Often a bird is not observed until after it has been hit.


Technology today does not have an effective means of "live time" tracking birds. There are records of migratory bird routes and nesting places. From these historical records, it is possible to assess past bird activity and predict time and location of future activity. Simply said, it is known that the birds travel north in the spring and south in the fall. This knowledge is then applied when planning bird-hazard mitigation. 

This chart is showing how many birds were struck, based on how many birds were in the area. 
The bird strikes numbers may be declining, but when 55 birds were struck, there were 60 birds in the vicinity, and when 84 were struck, there were 90 at or near the airport.

Birds may be such an overwhelming issue that it is tempting to take the "there is nothing we can do about the birds" approach to the hazard. However, if nothing can be done, why are birds an issue? Whenever there is an issue that compromises aviation safety, something can and must be done about it.

Birds are just like teenagers. They like to be where there is food, action and friends.  Airports take on their share of mitigation with a Wildlife Management Plan. An airport is the first defence in reducing bird activities, and therefore reducing strikes. A Wildlife Plan is bird mitigation or in other words; "does something about it". Airports take on bird-research, act on removing food sources, reducing gathering places and keeping birds away. 

If a hazard is not known is not the same as not being a hazard. (By the way, did you find the dog in picture?)  
Progress is being made in bird-science with DNA bird-analyzes and Wildlife Management Plans. In the past 100 years of aviation trial and error methods of safety management has already moved into the next generation of safety; which is a planned Safety Management System where processes are implemented to mitigate known hazards. 

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