Airports Strike Back at Angry Birds

 - May 7, 2013, 8:45 AM
Wildlife strikes have caused nearly 600,000 hours of aircraft downtime and $625 million in damages annually.

When the Transportation Department inspector general conducted a self-initiated audit of the FAA Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program last year, the office concluded that the agency’s oversight and enforcement activities were not sufficient to ensure that airports fully adhere to program requirements or effectively implement their wildlife hazard plans.

While birds and airplanes have been elbowing into each other’s airspace since shortly after Kitty Hawk, and probably before, it was the dramatic “Miracle on the Hudson” that really caught the attention of the general public. As everyone recalls, Capt. Sully Sullenberger dunked his U.S. Airways Airbus into the Hudson River in January 2009 after colliding with a flock of Canada geese that caused both engines to flameout.

According to the DOT IG, wildlife strikes have resulted in at least 24 deaths and 235 injuries in the U.S., and 229 deaths worldwide, since 1988. They also have caused nearly 600,000 hours of aircraft downtime and $625 million in damages annually.

In 2009, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation urging the FAA to require all Part 139 airports and Part 121, 135 or Part 91 Subpart K aircraft operators to report all wildlife strikes, including species identification if possible, to the FAA National Wildlife Strike Database.

The DOT IG said the FAA’s policies and guidance for monitoring, reporting and mitigating wildlife hazards are mostly voluntary. For example, the FAA recommends but does not mandate that airports and aircraft operators report all wildlife strikes to the FAA’s strike database. As a result, the FAA’s strike data are incomplete, which effects the agency’s ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in reducing wildlife hazards.

Under the wildlife hazard program, the agency requires airports to create and implement wildlife hazard management plans to assess and minimize the risk of future strikes. But according to the IG, the FAA’s oversight and enforcement activities are not sufficient to ensure airports fadhere to program requirements.

Now, airports across the U.S. are initiating new or renewing existing wildlife hazards assessments per FAA guidance. To assist airports in their efforts, the American Association of Airport Executives is holding early bird training conjunction with the 2013 Bird Strike North America Conference from August 12 to 15 in Milwaukee. The theme for the sessions is “Wildlife Hazards to Aviation: Have We Left the Holding Pattern?” The conference is a joint meeting of Bird Strike Committee-USA and the Bird Strike Association of Canada.

When the Transportation Department inspector general conducted a self-initiated audit of the FAA Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program last year, the office concluded that the agency’s oversight and enforcement activities were not sufficient to ensure that airports fully adhere to program requirements or effectively implement their wildlife hazard plans.

While birds and airplanes have been elbowing into each other’s airspace since shortly after Kitty Hawk, and probably before, it was the dramatic “Miracle on the Hudson” that really caught the attention of the general public. As everyone recalls, Capt. Sully Sullenberger dunked his U.S. Airways Airbus into the Hudson River in January 2009 after colliding with a flock of Canada geese that caused both engines to flameout.

According to the DOT IG, wildlife strikes have resulted in at least 24 deaths and 235 injuries in the U.S., and 229 deaths worldwide, since 1988. They also have caused nearly 600,000 hours of aircraft downtime and $625 million in damages annually.

In 2009, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation urging the FAA to require all Part 139 airports and Part 121, 135 or Part 91 Subpart K aircraft operators to report all wildlife strikes, including species identification if possible, to the FAA National Wildlife Strike Database.

The DOT IG said the FAA’s policies and guidance for monitoring, reporting and mitigating wildlife hazards are mostly voluntary. For example, the FAA recommends but does not mandate that airports and aircraft operators report all wildlife strikes to the FAA’s strike database. As a result, the FAA’s strike data are incomplete, which effects the agency’s ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in reducing wildlife hazards.

Under the wildlife hazard program, the agency requires airports to create and implement wildlife hazard management plans to assess and minimize the risk of future strikes. But according to the IG, the FAA’s oversight and enforcement activities are not sufficient to ensure airports fadhere to program requirements.

Now, airports across the U.S. are initiating new or renewing existing wildlife hazards assessments per FAA guidance. To assist airports in their efforts, the American Association of Airport Executives is holding early bird training conjunction with the 2013 Bird Strike North America Conference from August 12 to 15 in Milwaukee. The theme for the sessions is “Wildlife Hazards to Aviation: Have We Left the Holding Pattern?” The conference is a joint meeting of Bird Strike Committee-USA and the Bird Strike Association of Canada.

Comments

Bill Jensen's picture

Let us not forget that planes hit birds, birds don't hit airplanes. The emphasis of this improvement effort should be on how pilots can avoid bird strikes, not just on how airports can reduce bird populations.

Birds are plentiful in shoreline areas especially, so pilots in visual conditions should scan for them while at low altitudes and not look only at instruments which is very common.

Sully did a great job saving his ship, but could the crew have spotted and avoided the geese flock if they were visually scanning for them?

Hopefully technology will do this for the pilots eventually, but until that day, pilots should be trained in avoidance tactics.

As a private pilot, I have avoided birds in flight on numerous occasions over the years only because I was scanning for traffic VFR. In IFR flight, even in VMC, there's no need to scan for traffic so pilots don't feel the need to look out the windows. All airline flights are IFR even in VMC.

Yes, Sully is a hero, but did the IFR culture help cause the bird encounter? I think it did.

One man, one vote! Thanks for reading.

Bill Jensen, private pilot.

Vivien Okubo's picture

Bird strike is real just like human. The life of man is more important than birds.

Vivien Okubo's picture

Bird strike is real just like human. The life of man is more important than birds.

Show comments (3)