Magazine article Risk Management

It's a Bird, It's a Plane

Magazine article Risk Management

It's a Bird, It's a Plane

Article excerpt

For pilots, collisions with birds have been a very real threat almost since the advent of airplane flight. The first recorded instance of a bird strike was reported in 1905 by the Wright brothers when Orville Wright struck and killed a bird that was part of a flock he was chasing over a cornfield in Dayton, Ohio. While the collision caused no damage to the aircraft or the pilot, other bird strikes have been much more catastrophic.

Calbraith Rogers, the first person to fly across the continental United States, was also the first person to die as a result of a bird strike, after a seagull struck the plane he we piloting causing it to crash into the California surf in 1912. More recently, in 1996, a Belgian Air Force plane struck a flock of birds during its approach and crashed short of a runway in Eindhoven, Netherlands, killing 34 crew and passengers.

Bird strikes are thought to have played a significant role in at least five large jet airliner accidents over the last 30 years and over 200 people have been killed as a result of bird strikes since 1988. Statistically, there is a 25% chance that during the next 10 years a fatal bird strike involving a large airliner will occur in North America.

The actual impact of bird strikes is difficult to determine, however. More than 56,000 bird strikes to civil aircraft were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from 1990-2004 but experts believe that this is only 20% of the actual number. Suffice to say, no matter their actual number, bird strikes can be extremely devastating. A 12-pound goose hitting an airplane taking off at 150 miles per hour generates the same force as a 1,000 pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet. Estimates place the costs of these collisions with birds and other wildlife to commercial and military aviation worldwide at close to $1 billion each year from lost and damaged aircraft, flight delays, and lost time while aircraft are out of service for repair or inspection. The U.S. Air Force alone counted more than 4,600 wildlife strikes to its aircraft in 2004, resulting in a cost of more than $53 million.

Unfortunately the problem is not going away. According to the Bird Strike Committee USA, an organization made up of members of the FAA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense and the aviation industry, bird populations are on the rise. The Canadian goose population in North America grew from 1 million in 1990 to 3.6 million in 2003. …

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