Air Safety-Bird/Wildlife Strikes

Bird Strikes
The economic loss from wildlife strike over a 23-year period, 1990-2012, totaled $696 million in the US for civil aviation.  This estimate is not adjusted for inflation, reported strikes without costs reported, and non-reported strikes.

When was the first bird strike reported?
1905, reported by Orville Wright

Who reports wildlife strikes?
Most bird strikes are reported by pilots and airport personnel.

How often do wildlife strikes occur?
1990-2012, For civil aircraft, 142,000 wildlife/bird strikes.

In what part of the year/and time of day do most bird strikes occur?
About 52% of bird strikes occur from July-October; this is when young birds fledge from nests and fall migration occur.
Approximately 62% of bird strikes with civil aircraft occur in the day, 9% at dawn/dusk, and 29% at night.

When do most bird strikes occur-during take-off, landing, or in-flight?
For civil aircraft, approximately 60% occur during landing (descent, approach, and landing roll); 37% occur during take-off run and climb; and the remainder during the en-route phase.

At what altitude do most bird strikes occur?
For American commercial/civil aviation, approximately, 92% occur at/below 3,500 ft AGL (above ground level).  From 1900-2013, 21 strikes 20,000-31,300 ft AGL.

How many injuries, deaths, and loss of aircraft are attributed to wildlife/bird strikes?
From 1990-2013, 25 human fatalities; 279 human injuries; and 62 civil aircraft damaged or destroyed beyond repair.

What part of the airplane is most frequently damaged?
For civil aircraft in USA, engines are the component most frequently damaged by bird strikes; engines account
for 32% of all damaged aircraft components from 1990-2012.

What is the bird most commonly struck by aircraft?
Gulls, of which there are 19 species, are the most common type of bird strike by civil aircraft in USA and account for 15% of the birds identified in bird strikes, 1990-2012.  Waterfowl, ducks and geese, account for 7% of the strikes but are responsible for 30% of the strikes that cause damage to aircraft.

How are the bird remains identified?
Many remains are identified by trained wildlife biologists working at airports.  The Smithsonian Institution’s Feather Identification Laboratory is able to identify a bird species from its remains.
Depending on the condition of the remains, birds can be identified based on physical characteristics, feather fragments, and/or DNA analysis.

Are all birds struck by aircraft identified?
Not all remains are saved or sent to the Smithsonian for identification.  In 2012, 56% of the remains from reported strikes with civil aircraft in USA were identified to the species level and an additional 7% were identified to species group.

What bird strike incident has resulted in the largest loss of life? 
On October 4, 1960, Eastern Air Lines 375 struck a flock of European starlings during take-off.  All four engines were damaged and the aircraft crashed in Boston harbor.  62 lives were lost.
(This predates the creation of the FAA Wildlife Strike Database.)

What is the most famous bird airstrike?
January 15, 2009, is the date of “The Miracle on the Hudson”.  US Airways 1549 made a “water landing” on the Hudson River piloted by Capt. Chesley Sullenberger “Sully”.  Capt. Sully piloted the  Airbus A320 to the dramatic water landing after a bird strike knocked out both engines.  All 155 aboard (150 passengers, 5 crewmembers) survived.

Materials procured from vendors at the May 2016 AOPA Fly-in at Michael J. Smith Airport in Beaufort, NC.