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Understanding bird strikes and aviation safety

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    6th Jul, 2022

Context

Two planes in India — a Spice jet and an Indigo flight — were struck by bird hits and had to be grounded. 

  • As per International Civil Aviation Organization data, airlines face an average of 34 such strikes in a day, amounting to a loss of around $1 billion annually.

About

What is a bird strike?

  • The event of an airborne animal (usually a bird or a bat) hitting an airplane in flight is referred to as a bird strike.
  • Bird strikes also happen to other man-made objects on land, such as cars, power lines, and wind turbines, which usually result in death for the birds.

When are Bird strikes dangerous?

Bird strikes occur almost every day, but some are more dangerous than others.

  • Jet engine ingestion: Arguably the most dangerous form of bird strike is one in which a bird is ingested into the aircraft’s engine; this event is referred to as a jet engine ingestion.
    • The danger in such situations increases further if a larger flock of multiple birds is involved.
  • Airplane’s exterior: Another instance when bird strikes can be dangerous is when they hit the airplane’s exterior, which can cause significant cosmetic damage to the plane's exterior.
    • This can sometimes cause aircraft to be temporarily withdrawn from service.

How to avoid Bird strikes?

Techniques and devices which can be used are;

  • Predatory bird sound recordings, 
  • cartridge scarers — which produce loud bangs and 
  • flashes of light — 
  • mechanical falcons, trained falcons and drones have all been used

Human-Wildlife conflict

  • This incidence of bird strikes can be seen as an event of human-wildlife conflict. As Open areas of grass and water, shrubs, and trees provide food and roosting sites for birds. 
  • For this reason, airports tend to cut down trees with nests, reduce rainwater pooling, and substitute cattle grazing for grain crops.
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