Researchers have identified patterns in bird-aircraft collisions in hopes of reducing the number of incidents in the future.
Worldwide, the cost of bird strikes with aircraft is estimated at $1.2 billion per year, but additional information about bird movements can help prevent damage to aircraft and risks to passengers.
Scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology looked for patterns in bird strike data from three airports in the New York City area.
“Of all bird strikes recorded at Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia airports over a six-year period, the highest number occurred during migration, especially in the fall, perhaps due to many inexperienced fledglings flying earlier in the year. were born,” said lead author Cecilia Nilsson.
“Ninety percent of the strikes involved a migratory species. Our model predicts that the risk of damaging strikes increases by as much as 400 to 700 percent during periods of very high migration intensity.”
The team used weather monitoring radar from two nearby stations to find out when migration was most intense at the airports studied, in addition to detailed bird strikes tracked by the airport operators. Species that caused the most damage were assigned a hazard score.
“The damage caused by a bird strike depends a lot on the weight of the affected bird and that species’ tendency to move in flocks,” Nilsson explains. “When large birds pass through, the risk of damaging attacks is greatest.”
Species with high hazard scores include Canada geese, gray herons, mallard ducks and turkey vultures, but the largest number of bird strikes at the three airports were American robins.
Commercial aircraft are most vulnerable to bird strikes during takeoff and landing where birds and aircraft share the airspace; military aircraft are also at risk at the lower altitudes, as they fly low and fast during training exercises. At cruising altitudes, planes are generally too high to encounter most of the flying birds.
“It’s important to realize that the timing and species composition of bird movements will differ for each location,” Nilsson said. “But both the eBird data and the radar data are continental data sets, so the method used in our study could be applied to other airports to save time, money and potentially lives.”