From 2008 to 2015, almost 98,000 bird crashes with airplanes or “bird strike” were reported, according to data from the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). It is evidence that this is a relatively common occurrence of modern air travel.
These collisions are much more frequent during takeoff and landing maneuvers, both critical phases of the flight and in which the interrelation between birds and aircraft is more easily possible. In this sense the resistance of the aircraft is very important, and for this during the certification process verification tests are carried out that include the launching of objects of weight and mass similar to that of a medium-sized bird against the areas most exposed to a direct impact Today commercial airplanes are incredibly resistant – although not immune – to this type of impact and its consequences on windshields, leading edges, and engines.
After experiencing an impact, the aircraft must be immediately removed from service (this is called a “no go”) to examine it for possible damage, with the direct and indirect costs that it entails for the airline. Quantifying these damages, it is estimated that the estimated cost of all the impacts of birds on aviation, according to the European Space Agency, is more than 1,000 million dollars a year.
With some frequency, victims or wounded in aviation due to bird impact can be regretted, although most of the time these episodes go unnoticed. Not so in the case known as “the miracle of Hudson.” On January 15, 2009 an Airbus A320 US Airways took off from La Guardia Airport in New York to Charlotte International Airport, but was forced to land on the Hudson River, after a flock of birds disabled the two engines of the plane after takeoff. The episode was described by the press as a miracle, as the expertise of veteran commander Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles saved the lives of the 150 passengers and 5 crew members of that flight.
In most cases, the impacts of birds against airplanes occur below 150 meters high, since most species do not fly high. However, there have been sightings of birds such as condors and vultures above 10,000 meters of altitude.
Currently, there are certain preventive strategies to avoid these events. Some airports, such as Laguardia and JFK in New York, gather geese and choose to slaughter them with gas. Other airports also choose to shoot in the air with a gun, or use other animals such as birds of prey or hunting dogs.
However, there is technology that provides other ways to prevent these shocks.
Recently, a new method was discovered in no way dangerous. A study published in the PeerJ magazine, which was prepared by researchers from Purdue University, showed that red and blue LED lights are able to scare away birds effectively and keep them flying in the opposite direction.
The researchers who did the study tested it in thrush. They observed that these birds avoided following the routes illuminated with blue and red LED lights, but that ultraviolet (UV), green and white light was indifferent to them.