Aviation safety issues and actions

Operator management of birdstrikes

Issue number: AO-2018-026-SI-06
Issue owner: Whitsunday Air Services
Transport function: Aviation: Air transport
Background: Investigation Report AO-2018-026
Issue release date: 16 June 2021
Current issue status: Closed – Partially addressed
Issue status justification:

The ATSB notes that no additional action has been taken to reduce the concentration of birds at the pontoons, and that there are limited options available for reducing this concentration. However, given the location and the operational environment that the operator conducts flights (where all bird species are protected), the ATSB is satisfied that the safety action taken by the operator has reduced the risk of the safety issue.

Safety issue description

There was often a significant number of birds located on the pontoons at Hardy Reef used by the operator. However, the operator did not have a process to systematically manage the risk of birdstrike. For example:

  • The operator had not conducted a formal risk assessment of the bird hazard at the pontoons.
  • The operator did not record birdstrike occurrences, which reduced its ability to accurately assess the ongoing hazard associated with birdstrikes at the pontoons. Birdstrike occurrences were also not notified to the ATSB (as required).
  • The operator did not provide guidance or appropriate equipment to enable pilots to effectively conduct visual inspections following an actual or suspected birdstrike at the pontoons.

Proactive action

Action number: AO-2018-026-NSA-058
Action organisation: Whitsunday Air Services
Date: 16 June 2021
Action status: Closed

In January 2019, Whitsunday Air Services updated its operations manual to include additional information related to the management of birdstrike, more specifically:

2B1.14 Bird/Animal Avoidance In areas of known bird/animal hazards pilots are to plan, where possible, the route that will avoid large concentration of birds or animals.

When taking evasive manoeuvres to avoid hitting a bird or animal the pilot must ensure the avoiding action does not place the aircraft in greater danger.

If contact is made or suspected with a bird or animal land as soon practicable. The aircraft cannot be flown until the procedures in Volume 5A12 are carried out the and the aircraft is cleared for flight.

2B1.14.1 Preventative Strategies

To prevent or reduce the consequences of a bird strike, the flight crew should:

1.a) Discuss bird strikes during take-off and approach briefings when operating at places with known or suspected bird activity.

2.b) Be extremely vigilant if birds are reported in the area.

2B1.14.2 Bird Strike Detection

1. a) Visual: Birds seen in close proximity to the aircraft or colliding with the aircraft, bird remains on windshield, cracked windshield.

2. b) Aircraft: Vibration of airframe or engine, thrust loss, increased drag, abnormal aircraft handling characteristics.

3. c) Auditory: Noise of strike or noise attributed to resulting damage: engine surging, compressor stalls, aerodynamic noise from damage.

If contact is made or suspected with a bird or animal land as soon practicable. The aircraft cannot be flown until the procedures in Volume 5A12 are carried out the and the aircraft is cleared for flight.

NOTE: Any bird strike must be reported within 72 hours as a routine reportable matter to the ATSB using the Accident or Incident Notification Form www.atsb.gov.au/mandatory/asair-form.aspx?

In February 2021, the operator also advised that it had undertaken the following safety actions:

1. Inspection of blades after a bird strike included in Maintenance training for each pilot

2.Safety management system and reporting system implemented with an appointed safety manager and safety team

3. Line pilots trained by the approved ICUS company pilot on Pontoon operations including bird avoidance procedures.

Last update 16 June 2021