Bird Strike in Aviation

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There are quite a few hazards in the field of Aerospace Engineering. One of importance is ‘bird strike’. A bird strike is a collision between a flying animal (birds, bats) and a man-made vehicle. This man made vehicles are usually aircrafts, but could also be cars and trains.  Also, bird strikes could also be between a bird and man-made structures like towers, wind turbines and power lines.

On January 15, 2009, a US airways flight ditched into the Hudson River after losing both engines. It was suspected that the engine failure was caused when the aircraft ran into a flock of geese, shortly after takeoff. Thankfully, everyone was evacuated, thanks to the expertise of the pilot. this just goes to show how important it is to take bird strikes into consideration.

Most of the accidents from bird strike involves the collision of bird(s) with the windshield of an aircraft or ingestion of bird into the aircraft engine. It is also noticed that most bird strikes happen during takeoff and landing.

Bird strikes can be very dangerous for aircrafts. This is especially true when it involves ingestion of bird into engine. That been said, accidents resulting in human casualties are quite low. Majority of bird strikes cause little structural damage on an aircraft. Usually bird strikes prove fatal to the bird(s). This is leading to the decline of many avian species, which is a cause of concern.

Factors causing bird strikes

As can be seen above, the number of bird strikes increased to over 10,000. This can blamed on four factors. These factors are:

  • Larger populations of some birds responsible (for example, the Canada geese has doubled in population when compared to its population in 1990)
  • More flights: Means higher possibility of bird strikes
  • Quieter engines: Means birds might not hear an aircraft on its route quick enough to change its course
  • Greater awareness: Means that there is better reporting of incidents compared to before.

The effect of bird strikes differ with size of aircraft. Small propeller driven aircraft are likely to experience more hazardous effects such as penetration of windscreens, damage to control surfaces and damage to the tail section of the aircraft. Larger aircraft will likely experience hazardous effect of a bird strike through engine ingestion of bird(s). The bird will not clog the engine, but can bend or fracture internal blades, causing power loss.

How to reduce bird strikes

Some measures are used to reduce the possibility of a bird strike. These measures are:

  • Lights on aircrafts to warn the birds of the aircraft and make them avoid the aircraft
  • Habitat management, including reduction of trees, shrubs and other plants that provides food, shelter and roosting sites for birds.
  • Draining of streams, wet grassland and areas of standing water.
  • Liaison with local farmers to reduce how much they attract birds to their fields.
  • Use of bird scaring techniques such as:
    • Broadcasting bird distress signals;
    • Firing of pyrotechnic guns to scare of birds
  • Use of specialized ground-based radar equipment to detect large flocking birds

So, bird strikes in Aerospace Engineering should be taken into consideration in commercial aviation to ensure safer flights.

 

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I am an aerospace engineering graduate student at Concordia University, Montreal.
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