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A new report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) today highlights ways to manage the risks posed by birds hitting aircraft.

The report also reveals that the reported number of aircraft hitting birds (or 'birdstrikes') in Australia has steadily increased over the past eight years.

The report, which provides aviation birdstrike and animal strike occurrence data between January 2002 and December 2009, shows that in 2009 alone there were 1,340 birdstrikes reported to the ATSB.

The increase in the number of birdstrikes, however, is consistent with the increase in the number of high capacity aircraft movements over the period as well as a greater willingness of people in aviation to report safety occurrences to the ATSB.

Although the vast majority of birdstrikes do not result in any damage or operational consequence, ATSB Chief Commissioner Mr Martin Dolan said birdstrikes still pose a serious safety risk to aircraft.

"Of the 9,287 reported birdstrikes in Australia during the past eight years, eight resulted in serious aircraft damage and four resulted in injury," Mr Dolan said.

"Interestingly, most birdstrikes occurred within 5 km of an airport and 11 per cent of strikes resulted in an engine ingestion for high capacity aircraft.

"The ATSB encourages aerodrome operators, airlines and pilots to remain vigilant of the risk of birdstrikes. These risks can be mitigated through aerodrome wildlife control strategies, presented in the report, and through observation, avoidance and reporting of wildlife."

The most commonly damaged aircraft components in a birdstrike are aeroplane wings and helicopter rotor blades. Lapwings and plovers, bats and flying foxes, galahs, and kites are the most common types of flying animals struck by aircraft.

One of the most serious international incidents involving a birdstrike occurred when an Airbus A320 ditched on the Hudson River in New York after it struck a flock of geese and lost almost all power in both engines.

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Last update 01 April 2011