Birds pose aviation hazard

Sunday, 08 June, 2003

Birdstrikes continue to be a problem for aviation worldwide, costing approximately US$3 billion annually.

Increasingly, funds are being directed towards research which focuses on bird control and avoidance methods.

Two such methods which are proving to be successful are the use of handheld laser devices to scare birds from the airport environment, and the use of the US developed Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS), which allows aircraft to avoid high-risk birdstrike areas.

This study investigated the Australian birdstrike data for the period 1991 to 2001.

The data suggests that there has been a significant increase in the rate of birdstrikes being recorded in Australia since 1992 (most notably between 1998 and 2001). It is unclear whether this is the result of an increasing strike hazard or an improving reporting culture.

Both the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Australian data indicate that the majority of strikes occur on, or in the vicinity of, the airport environment, during the take-off, approach or landing phases of flight.

An analysis of the strike data revealed that birdstrikes are most common during the earlier months of the year (January to May) and are at their lowest between June and August. The specific monthly pattern varies between locations, particularly between airports in the north and south of Australia, with airports in the north of Australia generally recording higher strike rates.

The hawk and the galah are the most commonly struck birds in Australia. However, the eagle and the ibis pose the most serious hazard to aircraft if struck. Development of 'most struck' and 'potential hazard' lists allow airport owners and operators to develop and prioritise control methods to suit their specific area.

All birdstrikes and bird hazards, no matter how insignificant they might appear, must be reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). An improved reporting culture will allow a more thorough and comprehensive understanding of the bird hazard situation, which should in turn lead to the implementation of more effective control and management strategies.

It is also recommended that an Australian Birdstrike Working Group consisting of industry representatives from Australia be established. Such a body may not only enhance awareness of the safety issues surrounding birdstrikes, but may also determine directions for future research, regulations and procedures to minimise the risk posed to aircraft.

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