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Wildlife strikes pose significant safety risk

Wildlife strikes are among the most common occurrences reported to the ATSB. They are a significant safety risk for pilots as well as an economic risk for aerodrome and airline operators.

Two recent incidents illustrate how quickly and unexpectedly damage can occur to aircraft.

On 1 September 2015, the pilot of a SA227 (Metroliner) aircraft was conducting a scheduled freight run from Brisbane to Emerald via Thangool Airport, Queensland.

Shortly after touchdown, and with all landing gear wheels in contact with the ground, the pilot saw the glimpse of an animal flash from left to right in front of the aircraft. At the time, the aircraft was travelling at about 80 kt.

The right propeller then struck the animal, later identified as a small kangaroo. The pilot reported that following the large bang associated with the propeller striking the animal, there was a lot of vibration throughout the aircraft, but no abnormal engine indications. The pilot continued the landing roll, and used ground idle rather than reverse thrust to slow the aircraft.

The pilot taxied the aircraft to the parking bay, shut down the engines, then carried out an external inspection. One of the propeller blades attached to the right engine was twisted. Luckily the pilot escaped injury.

Although the Thangool airport had wildlife protective fencing, at the time it wasn’t fully fenced. There had been no reported kangaroo strikes in the last 28 years, and a runway inspection had just been conducted 20 minutes prior to the landing.

Twisted prop blade

On 2 September 2015, another strike was reported by a Raytheon B200 aircraft on a medical retrieval mission from Townsville to Barcaldine Airport, Queensland.

When touching down in the early hours of the morning, the pilot caught a last moment glimpse of a small kangaroo before the aircraft struck the animal.

The pilot reported that engine indications were normal, with no noticeable vibration as they completed the landing roll and then shut down the left engine while on the runway. They then taxied clear of the runway using the remaining engine.

The strike caused damage to the three propeller blades attached to the left engine and disabled the aircraft. No one on-board the aircraft was injured.

The ATSB regularly publishes a statistical report on the number and frequency of wildlife strikes. This report provides information for pilots, aerodrome and airline operators, regulators, and other aviation industry participants to assist with managing the risks associated with bird and animal strikes.

Both animal strikes and bird strikes remain a mandatory reporting item under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.

Read more about the accident investigation AO-2015-102

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Last update 15 March 2016