Airport operators have multiple tools and methods at their disposal to reduce the risk of bird strikes and wildlife intrusions
Bird strikes and other encounters between aircraft and wildlife are a perennial danger to aviation safety, accounting for about 3.6% of all aviation accidents in 2017 according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) – but airport operators and industry are working together to minimise the risk.
High- and low-technology solutions are available, but wildlife management planners who deal with the problem must consider societal pressure (from environmental groups, for instance) to avoid destruction of natural habitats. Speaking in November 2017 at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Seminar on Green Airports in Montréal, ACI World director general Angela Gittens emphasised that good practice in airport environmental management should be developed in many areas, including management of wildlife near and on the airfield. This demands a nuanced approach, and not simply measures to kill birds or other animals.
Stats tell a story
In its most recent annual safety report, published in April 2018, IATA classified the top threats encountered by aircraft in runway safety events. The most important were environmental factors, specifically wind shear and gusty conditions (counted as a threat in 18% of the recorded accidents), but birds, other wildlife, and foreign object debris (FOD) incidents still scored 3%.
The IATA safety report showed that wildlife, bird, and FOD encounters contributed to 5% of all aircraft accidents worldwide, and 6% of non-fatal accidents, from 2013–2017. This category accounted for just 2% of runway or taxiway excursion, but 33% of runway collisions. The problem affected jet and turboprop aircraft equally (5%).
Bird strikes or wildlife hits cause damage to aircraft but they are rarely fatal. However, in September 2012 a Dornier Do-228 flying from Kathmandu to Nepal, with 16 passengers and three crew aboard, was on initial climb from Kathmandu when the crew reported a bird strike and engine failure.
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