When a bird flies, or is sucked into, the engine of a plane, the poor critter usually disintegrates. However, in incidents with larger birds there can be extensive damage to the engine. … “However, multiple birdstrikes – or hitting large birds such as Canada geese – can and have caused serious accidents.
Bird Strike is common and can be a significant threat to aircraft safety. For smaller aircraft, significant damage may be caused to the aircraft structure and all aircraft, especially jet-engined ones, are vulnerable to the loss of thrust which can follow the ingestion of birds into engine air intakes. This has resulted in a number of fatal accidents.
“Aircraft are designed and built to withstand bird strikes and pilots undergo rigorous training to enable them to deal with eventualities like a bird strike,” said BALPA flight safety specialist, Stephen Landells.
“In my flying career I have experienced 10 bird strikes, none of which caused any significant damage. On half the occasions, in fact, due to the small size of the birds, I was not aware that I had hit one until inspecting the aircraft after landing.”
Losing one engine is not going to cause an aircraft to crash because they are designed to fly with one engine down,” said Landells. “However, multiple bird strikes – or hitting large birds such as Canada geese – can and have caused serious accidents.”
The most notable recent example of this was 2009’s US Airways Flight 1549, dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson”.
After the Hudson incident, airports in New York resorted to culling hundreds of geese to prevent a repeat. This rather callous approach provoked outrage in 2013 when wildlife biologists at JFK shot two snowy owls amid concerns that the birds would fly into aircraft.
JFK was subsequently sued by an animal advocacy organisation, but the court ruled in the airport’s favour last year.
Though culling may sometimes be necessary, there are more humane ways to reduce bird strikes. Scaring measures, such as playing distress calls, firing flares, and even the controlled use of birds of prey have been successfully employed at various airports.
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