Bird strikes are in the news again, and it’s not looking good. In Denver, reports the Wall St. Journal, there were 318 wildlife strikes in 2008, leading the nation’s airports. The incidents of birds getting sucked into airplane engine turbines has quadrupled to 7666 in 2007, says the FAA. What causes the surge? It’s a combination, they said, of rising bird populations, more flights and more reporting among airlines.
So far 219 people have died and 200 aircraft have perished since 1988. And this is only about 20% of the incidents, since the vast marjority are never reported! The FAA is now under pressure from the industry to report these strikes. Soon it appears that reporting will be mandatory, like near misses on runways, that must be tabulated.
But the FAA is worried about releasing too much info on bird strikes. The critics, though, say “If an airport knows it’s going to be scrutinized more closely by the public, it tends to do more,” said Gary Andrews, of a Florida company that makes bird detection radar.
One bright spot: bird detection systems might be eligible for $1 billion in federal stimulus funds if the FAA deems it a high priority. The ultimate solution might be providing the warnings directly into the cockpits of planes, instead of to people on the ground.