Wildlife Mitigation Program Running head: WILDLIFE MITIGATION PROGRAM


Wildlife Mitigation Program

Wildlife Mitigation Program Abstract Title: Institution: Degree: Year: Wildlife Mitigation Program Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Master of Aeronautical Science 2009


Wildlife Mitigation Program Sharing the airport environment with birds and other animals has been a concern to aviation personnel for years. Wildlife mitigation (also known as Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard in the USAF) is one of the programs used by the FAA to prevent aircraft collisions with wildlife. Although the impact of wildlife on aviation safety has been documented since 1920, the topic is becoming an increasing concern. Wildlife Services Program found that since 1990, the number of bird strikes has quadrupled, from 1759 in 1990 to a record 7666 in 2007, and in 2001 the Government Accounting Office determined that wildlife collisions with aircraft cost U.S. civil aviation more than $550 million annually. I intend to exam the possible causes for the increased number of bird strikes to include the effects of new aircraft design, the impact of climatic changes on migratory patterns of birds, and how regulatory changes, such as the endangered species programs and airport design criteria, have resulted in an increase in bird population. Also I will review the how the increase in air traffic since deregulation has resulted in crowded skies for both aircraft and birds, especially in the vicinity of airports where the majority of bird strikes occur.

Wildlife Mitigation Program


Sharing the airport environment with birds and other animals has been a concern to aviation for years. Collisions between wildlife, particularly birds and aircraft have cause substantial losses to the aviation industry since the beginning of powered flight. The first recorded bird strike occurred in 1905 while Orville Wright was flying over a cornfield and decided to chase a flock of birds. The first know fatality directly attributed to a bird strike was reported in 1912 at Long Beach California. A gull become lodged in the control cables of aviation pioneer Calbraith Perry Rodgers, the first person to fly across the continental United States, caused him to lose control of the aircraft and crash along the coast. (Cleary & Dolbeer, 2005, p. 2) Besides the serious threat to flight safety and lives, wildlife collisions also cause a significant economic impact, from damage to aircraft and additional maintenance costs to the cost incurred from air traffic delays and unscheduled landings as the result of damage. In 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimated the annual cost of damage worldwide caused by wildlife strikes to exceed 1.2 billion dollars a year. (Federal Aviation Administration [FAA], 2004) According to the Bird Strike Committee USA the cost of wildlife strikes to U.S. civil and military aircraft is well over $600 million dollars annually. (Bird Strike Committee USA, n.d.) In 1990 the FAA established a national database to collect reports of wildlife strikes on civil aircraft, foreign and domestic, operating within the United States. In the 19 years between 1990 and Jan 2009, over 99,700 strikes reports from over 1650 airports have been received. Of those strikes 97 percent (97,300) involved birds while and 3 percent involved terrestrial animals and bats. The number of wildlife strikes reported annually have quadrupled from 2000 in 1990 to nearly 8800 in 2008. (“Wildlife Database“, n.d.) The FAA estimates only 20% of strikes that

Wildlife Mitigation Program occur get reported, and of those strikes that are reported the majority, 86 percent, do not cause any damage and another 8 percent only cause minor damage. Between 1990 and 2007, 43


aircraft, less than 1 percent of aircraft experiencing wildlife strikes, were destroyed. Of those 43 aircraft lost, only 20 were attributed to bird strikes. (Dolbeer & Wright, 2008, p. 23) An analysis of wildlife strike reports from US airports and airlines, showed the annual cost of reported wildlife strikes to the US civil aviation industry is over 120,000 hours of aircraft downtime and cost $126 million per year. However, the FAA has concluded that since fewer than 20 percent of wildlife strikes are reported the real cost of wildlife strikes is nearly 600,000 hours of aircraft downtime and cost in excess of $500 million dollars per year. (Dolbeer & Wright, 2008, p. 6) However the concern with drawing this conclusion is the strikes not reported are most likely the ones that do not cause damage, where as the strikes that cause significant damage are most likely reported and accounted for in the $126 million per year. John Allan suggested the FAA should provide a minimum and maximum range of the estimated cost and downtime caused by wildlife strikes. (Allan, 2000, p. 148) Based on current data that range would state that wildlife strikes cause from 120,000 hours to 600,000 hours of downtime and $126 million dollars to over $500 million dollars per year. Before 1960 bird strikes were not seriously considered. However in 1960, an Eastern Airline plane departing Boston Logan International Airport ingested birds into three of its four engines and crashed, killing 62 of the 72 people on board. A review of the bird strike data revealed deficiencies in the collection and coordination process. (Sodhi, 2002, p. 590) In 1965 the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) began collecting bird strike reports from participating states and in 1980 automated bird strike reporting information with the introduction

Wildlife Mitigation Program of the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS). In 1999, at the first joint meeting of the Bird Strike Committee – USA/Canada, Alistar Pinos wrote:


In 1965 ICAO began to monitor bird strikes through the collection of bird strike reports as it became clear that the turbine engined aircraft coming into wider use were more susceptible to bird strike damage than their predecessors. This data collection became automated in 1980 with the creation of the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS), which now contains information on more than 80 000 bird strikes. When IBIS was created, it was thought that approximately 10 000 bird strikes occurred worldwide each year. However, since 1980, increases in bird strike reporting C which have come about through a greater awareness of the problem and the efforts of those in the field of airport wildlife control C have given us a better perspective of the present bird strike situation. While estimates vary, it is now believed that as many as 40 000 bird strikes occur to civil aviation aircraft each year. Bird strikes are truly a worldwide phenomenon, as shown by the fact that more than 190 States and Territories, from every ICAO Region, have reported bird strikes to ICAO. (“The need to strengthen the ICAO provisions relating to bird control on and in the vicinity of airports“, 1999) With the proliferation of jet aircraft and the increases in air travel in the United States, wildlife strikes have become an increasing concern for the aviation industry. The expanding populations of birds in the U.S. are competing more and more with the increased numbers of aircraft flying in the National Airspace System (NAS). Compounding the wildlife strike problem is the development of the modern jet powered aircraft, with the increased speeds of aircraft, they are at greater risk of suffering damage when colliding with wildlife than slower piston powered aircraft were. In the early days of aviation the speeds of the aircraft and that of birds were similarly matched. It was easy for birds to maneuver to avoid aircraft and at the same time the slower speeds of the aircraft allowed pilots to more easily see birds and take evasive action. However as aircraft size and speeds have increased it has become more difficult for aircraft and birds to avoid collisions. Additionally since the conservation movement of the 1970’s, regulations have been put in place to reduce the noise levels of aircraft, producing modern jet aircraft powered by engines that are significantly quieter than the older jet and piston driven engines, making aircraft less obvious to wildlife. In general jet powered aircraft are more

Wildlife Mitigation Program vulnerable to bird strikes than piston driven planes because of the reduced noise levels and higher rates of speed of most jet aircraft do not provide wildlife with sufficient warning to avoid approaching aircraft. The risk is even greater for military aircraft which often fly and train at high speeds and lower altitudes where most birds fly. The wide bodied transport aircraft are struck more often by wildlife than the narrower-bodied aircraft simply because wildlife have further to travel to escape. (Sodhi, 2002, p. 589) According to the Bird Strike Committee, USA, wildlife strike hazards are increasing in the United Stated because of the outstanding wildlife conservation and environmental programs in North America. The populations of many species of birds have increased dramatically since he 1970’s. Millions of acres have been set aside as wildlife refuges and strong environmental


laws such as the Migratory Bird Treat Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fugicide and Rodenticide Act have protected birds and other wildlife. As a result species such as the non-migratory Canada Geese which frequent urban areas such as golf courses, parks and airports have more than quadrupled in number from 1985 to 2004. The increased numbers of birds have led to more birds in the vicinity of airports and greater opportunity for wildlife strikes. (Bird Strike Committee, USA, n.d.) It is not uncommon for aircraft in the vicinity of an airport to overfly an nesting area and disturb the birds on the ground causing them to swarm up into the flight path of the offending aircrafts or the flight path of a trailing aircraft.

Wildlife Mitigation Program References Air Line Pilots Association, International. (2009, February). Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Strategies for Pilots (Air Line Pilots Association). : .


Allan, J. R. (2000, ). The cost of bird strikes and bird strike prevention. In (Ed.), USDA National Wildlife Research Center Symposia: Human Conflicts with Wildlife: Economic Considerations (pp. 147-153). : University of Nebraska - Lincoln. Bird Strike Committee USA (n.d.). Why is there a Birdstrike Committee USA? Retrieved May 24, 2008, from www.birdstrike.org Bird Strike Committee, USA (n.d.). Top ten bird strike myths. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from http://www.birdstrike.org/commlink/top_ten.htm Bird Strike Committee. (1999). In A. Pinos (Ed.), The need to strenghten the ICAO provisions relationg to bird control on and in the vicinity of airports. Retrieved June 5, 2009, from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/birdstrike1999/26/ Cleary, E. C., & Dolbeer, R. A. (2005). Wildlife Hazard Management at Airports [Computer manual]. Retrieved May 24, 2009. Available from Federal Aviation Administration: http://wildlife-mitigation.tc.faa.gov/public_html/index.html#manuals Dolbeer, R. A., & Wright, S. E. (2008). Wildlife strikes to civil aircraft in the United States, 1990-2007 (Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture). : . Federal Aviation Administration. (2004, December 22). A Reporting Wildlife Aircraft Strikes (AC 150/5200-32A). : . National Wildlife Strike Database. (n.d.). In (Ed.) (Eds.), National Wildlife Strike Database. Retrieved June 2, 2009, from http://wildlife.pr.erau.edu/database/select_v.php Sodhi, N. S. (2002). Perspective in ornithology: Competition in the air. The Auk, 119, 587-595.