Why we have done this report

Occurrences involving aircraft striking wildlife, particularly birds, are the most common aviation occurrence reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). Strikes with birds continue to be a significant economic risk for aerodrome and airline operators and a potential safety risk for pilots. The aim of the ATSB’s statistical report series is to give information back to pilots, aerodrome and airline operators, regulators, and other aviation industry participants to assist them with managing the risks associated with bird and animal strikes. This report updates the last edition published in 2012 with data from 2012-2013.

What the ATSB found

Between 2004 and 2013, there were 14,571 birdstrikes reported to the ATSB, most of which involved high capacity air transport aircraft. Although the number of birdstrikes has continued to increase for all operation types, due to increasing aircraft movements, the rate per aircraft movement has actually decreased slightly in recent years. In the 2 years since 2011, the rates for seven of the ten major airports have reduced. Indeed, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney had lower rates in 2013 than in 2004. The largest increase in birdstrike rate was observed in Darwin, where the rate has more than doubled in the two years since 2011 and maintains the highest average birdstrike rate of all the major airports. Alice Springs Airport has shown the most significant reduction in rate.

Domestic high capacity aircraft were those most often involved in birdstrikes, and the strike rate per aircraft movement for these aircraft was significantly higher than all other categories. The number of engine ingestions for high capacity air transport operations had been increasing until 2011, but has since decreased to the lowest level in 10 years. Still, one in nine birdstrikes for turbofan aircraft involved an engine ingestion.

The four most commonly struck types of birds have not changed in the 2012 to 2013 period, those being kites, bats/flying foxes, lapwings/plovers and galahs. Kites had the most significant increase in the number of reported strikes per year in the last 2 years, with these species being involved in an average of 129 strikes per year for 2012 and 2013 compared with 84 per year on average across the entire 10-year reporting period. Galahs were more commonly involved in strikes of multiple birds, with more than 38 per cent of galah strikes involving more than one galah. However, larger birds were more likely to result in aircraft damage.

Historically, birdstrikes have not been a significant safety risk to civilian air travel in Australia. ATSB data dating back to 1969 show no civilian aviation fatalities attributed to birdstrikes. Additionally, the vast majority (98.7%) of birdstrikes over the 10 year study period were assessed using the ATSB event risk classification (ERC) framework as being low risk occurrences.

Compared to birdstrikes, animal strikes are relatively rare. The most common animals involved were hares and rabbits, kangaroos, dogs / foxes and wallabies. Damaging strikes mostly involved kangaroos, wallabies and livestock.

Safety message

Australian aviation wildlife strike statistics provide a reminder to everyone involved in the operation of aircraft and aerodromes to be aware of the hazards posed to aircraft by birds and non-flying animals. Timely and thorough reporting of birdstrikes is paramount. The growth of reporting to the ATSB that has been seen over the last 10 years has helped to better understand the nature of birdstrikes, and what and where the major safety risks lie. This helps everyone in the aviation industry to better manage their safety risk.

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