Wildlife Hazards and Aviation Safety
With recent FAA data revealing that aircraft bird strikes in the United States continue to pose a significant threat to both civil and military aviation, the services of the Bird Strike Committee USA are more necessary than ever before. Formed in 1991, the Bird Strike Committee USA is a volunteer organization with members from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), US Department of Defense, and US Department of Agriculture, as well as representatives from the aviation industry, airlines and airports. Among the organization’s goals is to facilitate the collection and analysis of accurate data regarding wildlife strikes; facilitate the exchange of information between the various aviation industry sectors; promote the ongoing development of new technologies for dealing with wildlife hazards; advocate high standards of conduct and professionalism in wildlife management programs, including the appropriate training for bird control personnel; and liaise with similar organizations based in other countries.
Together with Bird Strike Committee Canada, the Bird Strike Committee USA meets once a year to discuss matters pertaining to their stated goals. Taking place over a period of three-and-a-half days, the conference program includes field training and classroom sessions covering wildlife control at airports in both civil and military aviation. Also on the agenda is the presentation of technical papers, with exhibits and demonstrations by suppliers of wildlife control equipment, and a field trip at the host airport to observe firsthand the current management programs and the specific habitat issues faced by authorities responsible for aviation safety. The last meeting of the Bird Strike Committees was held in September 2011 in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, and the 2012 event is scheduled to take place in Memphis, Tennessee, USA, on 13-16 August.
Among the topics covered at the annual meeting are wildlife strike reporting; bird control techniques; new technologies for reducing wildlife hazards; wildlife management training at airports; environmental issues; aircraft engine performance and standard specifically related to wildlife hazards; migratory patterns of birds; and remote sensing to detect, and predict, bird movements and numbers. Attendance at the annual meetings is open to anyone interested in environmental management at airports and the reduction of wildlife hazards in aviation.
Bearing in mind that reporting wildlife strikes in civil aviation is not compulsory, and many incidents likely go unreported, statistics reveal that about 10,000 bird and other wildlife strikes were reported in 2011 for civil aviation in the USA, and about 4,500 were reported by the USAF. Thanks to quick-thinking pilots and sound equipment, hundreds of potential disasters have been averted -the historic landing of Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in January 2009 being an example that readily comes to mind. Nonetheless, more than 221 people have been killed as a direct result of bird strikes worldwide since 1988, highlighting the need to continue to seek solutions to the ongoing problem of bird air strikes.