Why Do Geese and Airplanes Collide?

//

For the second time in less than two weeks, an airplane has been forced to land after hitting geese. The latest accident happened Tuesday, when a JetBlue plane made an emergency landing after the bird strike, according to Reuters.

Last Thursday, a flock of at least seven birds collided with another plane, which then had to return to New York's JFK Airport.

The latest accident sounded like a horrific flight for passengers.

"We took off and it was evident we hit something," one passenger told CBS News. "The plane kept swerving from left to right."

The accidents bring to mind the miraculous landing of a jet on the Hudson River three years ago. As for the recent incidents, geese were also blamed.

Planes hit geese for several reasons. These large birds can do significant damage if a plane hits one or more, or if the birds wind up in the engine. The force of impact can bend metal engine parts, as seen in this photo:

Geese also tend to gather in large populations and typically enter urban areas. Another reason for the strikes now is that spring migrations for geese and other birds are under way. Bird strikes are far more likely to occur during the spring and fall, coinciding with migrations. Depending on the species, geese fly at both higher and lower latitudes, so planes can hit them during takeoffs or landings or even up to 30,000 feet above the ground.

The biggest problem, however, has to do with the land surrounding airports. As a buffer to urban centers, most airports include a lot of undeveloped land around them. Hearty birds find this and use it as a refuge, depending on what plant, water and other natural resources are available.

Measures to help prevent bird strikes include the following:

  • Removing bird populations
  • Modifying the habitat near airports so that it is not avian friendly
  • Using noise, lasers, trained falcons and other methods to scare off birds
  • Employing trained spotters, using radar, and other means to watch out for birds and direct planes accordingly
  • Changing flight times to avoid the busiest periods of bird activity (usually early morning and late evening)
  • Designing planes that are better able to withstand bird strike impacts

It's a terrible, ongoing problem that has caused so much destruction to wildlife. But who wants to be on a plane that winds up in the Hudson River or swerves out of control while in mid-flight?

Wide Angle: Bird Strike Avoidance Technology

As long as bird habitat continues to shrink and airplane travel continues to rise, this problem will persist. Hopefully better conservation measures and improved technologies can lessen the very heavy impact on wildlife and reduce the number of bird strikes.

Here is a report that Discovery ran a few years ago after the Flight 1549 incident:

Top photo: F-16 aircraft after a bird strike; Credit: U.S. Department of Defense.

Bottom photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

DISCOVERYnewsletter
 
Invalid Email