Why the Number of Aircraft Bird Strikes Is Increasing

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The reason why the US Airways jet ditched in the Hudson River Thursday afternoon has not yet been confirmed, though it may have been because of a bird strike. As msnbc.com’s Bill Dedman reports, bird strikes are fairly common and often injurious to even very large aircraft:

… Dr. Richard A. Dolbeer told msnbc.com that such bird-aircraft collisions are on the rise.

“The key thing is that we’ve seen a remarkable increase in populations of many or most large birds –  birds such as great blue heron, osprey, bald eagle, snow goose, Canada goose,” said Dolbeer, a retired ornithologist with the Department of Agriculture at the Wildlife Services in Sandusky, Ohio. “These populations are increasing because we’ve done a really good job of wildlife conservation in North America for many species, because we’ve cleaned up the environment, gotten rid of DDT, enacted the the Clean Water Act. All good things, but because of these, we’ve had incredible surges of many species that are hazardous to aviation.

“And at the same time, these species have adapted to being around people and all our activities. Related to that is the fact that modern jet aircraft, turbofan aircraft like the Airbus 320, the engines are very quiet. There’s very little noise out of the front of the airplane. Most of the noise is to the rear. There’s been a lot of attention paid to making the area around airports quieter. Birds have less ability to detect and avoid the aircraft.”

FAA statistics indicate that the number of aircraft bird strikes reported in the U.S. quadrupled from 1990 to 2007, rising from 1,738 per year to 7,439, These strikes caused 3,094 precautionary landings, 1,442 aborted takeoffs, 312 engine shutdowns and 1,162 minor negative effects, it said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has a database of bird strikes and other aircraft incidents involving wildlife:

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