Officials fear bird-aircraft collision disaster

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Aircraft often strike flying birds and birds can even disable aircraft. The bird-strike risk is so serious that the Canada Gazette has warned that "a multiple-strike will (soon) result in the crash of a large jetliner.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, officials are bracing for a major jetliner crash due to a bird-aircraft collision. Canada's Bird-Strike Committee has cautioned that Pearson International Airport and Vancouver International Airport average about 200 bird-strikes each year. 

Bird strikes  are increasing in North America. One reason is that some of the bird species that are most vulnerable to being struck by planes have recently undergone significant population increases. For instance, gull numbers have been doubling every 20 years. Canada geese are involved in a disproportionately high percentage of bird strikes in Canada, especially near airports. Canada goose numbers have been increasing by 30 per cent per decade.

In 2006, a green-winged teal (duck) flew into the engine of a US Airways jet, causing engine failure. An Air Canada Airbus A319 made an emergency landing at Calgary after several birds were sucked into an engine, which caught on fire. An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 made an emergency landing at Calgary due to a bird strike. Several Canadian jet fighters have been downed as a result of collisions with birds.

In 2002, a Canadair RJ200 aborted takeoff at Washington's Dulles Airport after a wild turkey shattered a cockpit window. 

In Canada, 90 per cent of bird-strikes occur at or near airports, and 92 per cent take place at altitudes below 1500 feet. "The main problem is that birds do not naturally associate the sound or sight of an aircraft with danger," reports the Canadian Wildlife Service.  "Aircraft do not naturally inspire fear or avoidance behaviour in birds so they do not take any special care to flee out of the way."

Since 2005, Canadian Aviation Regulations have stressed measures to make airports "bird-unfriendly." Anti-bird initiatives include the use of: lights, pyrotechnics, gas cannons, sirens, traps, nets, wailers, lasers and falcons.

The current Canadian bird-strike risk is 10 strikes per every 10,000 aircraft movements. Flocking birds pose the greatest danger.

Wasaga Sun