While bird strikes are nothing new, they are important to explore from both the standpoint of the plane and passengers and the birds.
In one of the recent cases, a plane had to return to an Orlando airport after its left engine failed because a bird was sucked into the turbine. Although the feathers and carcass of the bird are being sent to the Smithsonian to determine exactly what type of bird it was, it was likely a Bald Eagle.
Of course, bird strikes on planes are nothing new. Another high profile case of birds striking planes happened a few years back when a plane was forced to land in the Hudson River after flying through a flock of Canadian Geese.
So, this raises two important questions: what makes bird strikes such a big issue and what can we do to prevent them?
According to the Wikipedia page on bird strikes, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that it costs $600 million annually to deal with strikes and there have been about 200 worldwide deaths since 1988. Obviously, bird strikes are not only costly but possibly dangerous. As you can see from the Associated Press graphic above, this is an issue that has the potential to scare millions of people planning on taking flights and raise anger toward birds.
There are actually a number of things that can be and are being done to deter the amount of bird strikes at airports around the country (some of course are ideal for the birds and planes and others are flat-out harmful for birds). For example, there are people who go around and shoot blanks, release dogs and fire paintballs near the birds to scare them away. Other methods include making the area in and around airports inhospitable by getting rid of desirable grass or roosting trees.
While all these methods are fairly efficient, birds usually find a way to adapt and remain persistent in certain areas. As I reported a month ago, Canadian Geese in Prospect Park of Brooklyn were preemptively gassed because the mayor deemed them a risk to planes. This method is the least desirable. Even though everyone agrees that birds should be discouraged from roosting near airports, killing them heartlessly should not be a solution.
Two other ways of preventing bird strikes should be further explored. The first is building aircraft to be more bird-resistant. This would make planes stronger and less risky. The second is to train pilots on how to execute evasive maneuvers to avoid flocks of birds.
Of the thousands of bird strikes that occur annually, a small amount actually result in damage to a plane and an even smaller number result in fatalities.
Engineers and the FAA should continue to work on bird-friendly measures to prevent strikes on planes because it’s important to work as harmoniously as possible with nature.