After US Airways 'miracle on the Hudson,' concern grows about bird strikes
For the first time since records have been kept, the number of instances in which aircraft hit birds or other wildlife could top 10,000 for 2009. Increasingly, pilots worry about 'feathered bullets'.
It’s been just a year since US Airways Flight 1549 inadvertently rendezvoused with a flock of Canada geese, sending the Airbus A320 splashing into what everyone now calls the “miracle on the Hudson.” (And the geese into the great beyond.)Skip to next paragraph
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Hero-captain Chesley Sullenberger, his flight crew, and some of the passengers got together in New York Friday for a joyous and emotional reunion. Some were more than a little nervous as they rode a ferry out to that spot on the Hudson where their aircraft suddenly became a sinking vessel.
Making aviation officials nervous are the increasing incidents in which birds and aircraft try to occupy the same place at the same time.
"Birds and planes are fighting for airspace, and it's getting increasingly crowded," Richard Dolbeer, an expert on bird-plane collisions who is advising the Federal Aviation Administration and the Agriculture Department, told the Associated Press. For the first time since records have been kept, the number of instances in which aircraft hit birds or other wildlife could top 10,000 for 2009.
Serious damage and loss of life
According to an AP analysis of the latest government figures, there were at least 57 cases in the first seven months of 2009 that caused serious damage and three in which planes and a corporate helicopter were destroyed by birds. At least eight people died, and six more were hurt.
Reported incidents include deer and coyotes on runways, but 98 percent involve birds.
(Personal note: As a student naval aviator on a solo flight in a jet trainer in Mississippi, I narrowly missed a deer that had jumped the fence and wandered onto the runway as I accelerated for takeoff. It came close to being a very bad day for both of us. Years later, when I was on the Monitor’s “Small Plane, Big Planet” aerial adventure, we had to abort the landing of our small Cessna when a herd of zebra ambled across a dirt runway in Namibia.)
Particularly since US Airways Flight 1549’s water landing last January focused attention on the problem, pilots and air traffic controllers have been more inclined to report incidents involving birds and other wildlife.