Why we have done this report
Occurrences involving aircraft striking wildlife, particularly birds, continue to be the most common aviation occurrence reported to the ATSB. Strikes with birds are a potential safety risk and present a significant economic risk for aerodrome and aircraft operators. The aim of the ATSB’s statistical report series is to provide information back to pilots, aerodrome and aircraft 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 2016) with data from 2016 – 2017.
What the ATSB found
Between 2008 and 2017, there were 16,626 confirmed birdstrikes reported to the ATSB. The number of reported birdstrikes has increased in recent years, with 2017 having the highest on record with 1,921. Despite being a high frequency occurrence, birdstrikes rarely result in aircraft damage or injuries. Of the 16,626 birdstrikes in this reporting period, 99.8 per cent were classified as incidents, while 19 (~0.1 per cent) were classified as accidents and another five (~0.03 per cent) as serious incidents. Nine birdstrikes, or approximately 0.05 per cent of the birdstrikes in the ten years, resulted in minor injuries to pilots or passengers. There were no reported serious injuries or fatalities associated with a birdstrike occurrence in the ten-year period.
Domestic high capacity aircraft were those most often involved in birdstrikes, and the birdstrike rate per aircraft movement for these aircraft was significantly higher than all other categories. Both the number and rate of birdstrikes per 10,000 movements in high capacity operations have increased in the past two years 2016 – 2017. In contrast, the number of birdstrikes in low capacity operations and general aviation has remained relatively consistent in the most recent two years.
The number of birdstrikes involving a bird ingested into an engine in high capacity air transport operations has risen in recent years with about one in ten birdstrikes for turbofan aircraft involving a bird ingested into an engine. Additionally, over the ten-year reporting period, there have been 11 occurrences involving one or more birds ingested into two engines of turbofan-powered aircraft.
The five most commonly struck flying animals in the 2016 to 2017 period were flying foxes, galahs, magpies, and ‘bats’ (many of which were likely to be flying foxes) and plovers.
Compared to birdstrikes, non-flying animal strikes are relatively rare, with 396 animal strikes reported to the ATSB between 2008 and 2017. The most common animals involved were hares, rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies, and foxes. Damaging animal strikes mostly involved kangaroos and wallabies.
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. The growth of reporting to the ATSB over the last 10 years has helped to understand better the nature of birdstrikes, and what and where the major safety risks lie. As such, timely and thorough reporting of birdstrikes is paramount. This assists the aviation industry to manage better their safety risk. Over the ten years from 2008 to 2017, about 40 per cent of all birdstrikes reported to the ATSB contained no species information. The more detailed the information is provided to the ATSB, the more accurate and useful reports like this one will be.