Study: Steady increase in Australian birdstrikes

A new report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) highlights ways to manage the risks posed by aircraft hitting birds and reveals that the reported number of  birdstrikes in Australia has steadily increased over the past eight years.

The report, which provides aviation birdstrike and animal strike occurrence data between January 2002 and December 2009, shows that in 2009 alone there were 1,340 birdstrikes reported to the ATSB.

The increase in the number of birdstrikes, however, is consistent with the increase in the number of high capacity aircraft movements over the period as well as a greater willingness of people in aviation to report safety occurrences to the ATSB.

Most birdstrikes occur within the confines of aerodromes (less than 5 km). Major and regional towered aerodromes had significantly higher rates of reported birdstrikes than General Aviation Airport Procedures (GAAP) aerodromes, and had considerably increasing rates from 2002 to 2009. GAAP aerodrome birdstrike rates do not appear to have changed.

Engine ingestion makes up 11 per cent of all birdstrike occurrences in high capacity air transport for the 8- year period, and the highest number of damaging birdstrikes occurs in high capacity air transport. Birdstrikes causing multiple parts damaged were not common throughout the period. General aviation had the highest proportion of damaging birdstrikes, with almost 24 per cent of birdstrikes causing damage. Aeroplane wings and helicopter rotor blades are the most commonly damaged aircraft components across all operational types, particularly in general aviation. There have been eight occurrences from the period of 2002-2009 that have resulted in serious aircraft damage, and four that have resulted in injury.

The most common types of birds struck by aircraft were lapwings/plovers, bats/flying foxes, galahs, and kites. Not surprisingly, larger birds were more likely to result in aircraft damage.

Animal strikes were relatively rare. High capacity air transport had the highest average with 11.5 animal strikes per year, with general aviation having the second highest average with 9.3 animal strikes per year. The most common animals involved in strikes were hares/rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies, and foxes/dogs. Damaging strikes mostly involved kangaroos, wallabies and livestock.

Bird hazard control at aerodromes was found to be mostly related to the control of grass height (short or long) and growing specific plants or grass, and the daily or weekly use or auditory deterrents, especially car horns and shotguns.

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