When it comes to air travel, the saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” takes on a troubling connotation. In 2016 alone, the U.K. recorded more than 1,800 confirmed bird strikes, or eight in every 10,000 flights. Similarly, statistics in the U.S. point to an estimated 13,000-plus bird strikes in this country every year. Passenger lives aren’t usually at stake in these incidents –there’ve only been 25 fatalities due to wild bird strikes between the years 1990 to 2013, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But the risks of bird strikes aren’t exactly insignificant either.
For one, there’ve actually been high-profile bird-strike related disasters. Ethiopian Airlines Flight 604 crashed after the plane sucked pigeons into both of its engines.
More famous in the U.S. is the saga of US Airways Flight 1549. That’s when an Airbus aircraft struck a flock of Canada geese shortly after take-off, losing all engine power, and forcing the pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, to make a miraculous landing on New York’s Hudson River when he wasn’t able to steer the damaged plane to a nearby airport.
Of course, Sully’s story has become quite literally the stuff of Hollywood drama. But it’s not exaggeration to say bird strikes are incredibly dangerous. Hitting multiple birds or just one particularly large bird can cause accidents, structural damage to the aircraft, not to mention uncertain death for the bird.
The financial toll can be exceedingly high as well. The FAA puts the yearly cost to civil aircraft at just north of $957 million. The European Aviation Safety Agency puts it even higher, more than one billion euros per year.
There’re also legal repercussions. After the “Miracle on the Hudson,” New York airports tried culling hundreds of geese. Animal rights activists were outraged, and one advocacy organization even sued JFK airport.
Short of going to the extremes of extermination, what can airport operators actually do to prevent bird strikes? Here are a couple of strategies:
- Airline operators can employ scaring measures to disperse nearby bird populations, including distress calls, firing flares, and using mechanical birds and drones.
- Prevention is almost as important as dispersal. In concert with local communities, airport operators should remove large food sources, manage grass length, and cover all open water.
Of course, one of the most important strategies is record-keeping. Make sure you monitor bird activity around the clock in a centralized incident management system, where you can keep up-to-the-minute records and make comments, and mitigate the risk of bird strikes.
Need help tackling your aviation and airport related incidents? Noggin OCA, our next-gen incident management solution, is tailor-made for airport crisis teams, executives, and their boards. Secure, robust, and mobile-optimized, Noggin OCA can help airport operators manage their critical issues and crises better.
To learn more, download our Noggin OCA for Airports brochure:
For more on hazards and incident management, follow us on Twitter @teamnoggin