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Understanding Bird strikes and aviation safety

  • Published
    23rd Jun, 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
    • The first-ever case of a bird strike was reported by Orville Wright (one of the Wright brothers who is credited with inventing and flying the world’s the first successful airplane) in 1905.
    • Bird strikes usually occur when an airplane is flying at low altitudes. Therefore, the most favorable conditions for a bird strike are during take-offs or landings (or other related phases) of airplanes.
  • A survey held by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), including data from 91 countries found that airlines face an average of 34 bird strikes in a day. The damage amounted to more than $1 billion annually. 

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 This can sometimes cause aircraft to be temporarily withdrawn from service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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