Why are planes most afraid of hitting birds?

As machines that weigh tens of tons and are worth millions of dollars, planes can have problems when facing small birds.

On August 15, the Ural Airlines plane had to land on its stomach in a cornfield on the outskirts of Moscow just minutes after taking off. Local media called it a “cornfield miracle”. An engine caught fire fell out, the gear wheel failed to land, but the fuselage did not break when it landed.

Flight A321 departed from Zhukovsky airport in the direction of Moscow-Simferopol (Crimea) carrying 226 passengers and 7 crew members. It had just taken off for a few seconds when suddenly a flock of birds rushed into the plane’s engine, causing it to burst into flames. The crew decided to turn off the engine, making an emergency landing without returning to the airport.

Why are planes most afraid of hitting birds?
The Ural Airlines plane landed on its stomach in a cornfield after colliding with a flock of birds. (Photo: AP).

This is the rare time a plane collides with a bird, causing both engines to fail. In fact, bird collisions with airplanes happen quite often. According to data from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there were 14,661 collisions between aircraft and animals in 2018, or about 40 incidents per day.

Airplane-bird collisions over the past two decades have killed more than 106 people and caused a total loss of .2 billion. Not only passenger aircraft, military aircraft are also not immune to bird accidents. In early October, the US Navy’s E-6B Mercury plane suffered an engine failure and million in damage due to a bird crash during landing.

The sky is so vast, and in fact there is little chance of a bird colliding with an aircraft at kilometres. Most crashes happen while planes are taking off or landing. The reason is that many birds like to live around the airport area.

Why are planes most afraid of hitting birds?
Bird crashes often happen during take-off or landing. (Image: Getty).

Although the area around the airport is very noisy, this is an ideal environment for small birds because there are few houses and people around. Large birds of prey usually don’t hang out at airports, so it’s also safer.

Realizing this, many airports have had to renovate to make the environment less than ideal for birds. They have to cut down large trees, cut grass regularly, reduce the number of lakes around the airport. Cherry Capital Airport in Michigan keeps dogs to keep birds away.

When accidents happen, the most unlucky objects are definitely birds. Collisions with one bird are usually not dangerous to the aircraft, but collisions with a whole flock are different.

“The plane is designed to withstand bird strikes. The plane is crash tested with birdshots fired from guns to test the durability of the windshield and other components. I’ve been in a lot of bird strikes. times, and the worst time it just left a rut on the fuselage,” pilot Patrick Smith told the Telegraph.

Why are planes most afraid of hitting birds?
A Boeing 737 in Sudan had its nose damaged due to a bird collision during takeoff. (Photo: Aviation WG).

When birds are caught in aircraft engines, they are immediately torn to pieces. If the bird is too big, the collision could damage the engine.

“Loss of an engine doesn’t cause the plane to crash immediately, because the plane can still operate when one engine fails. However, when a whole flock of birds collides with the engine, or when colliding with large birds such as geese. Canada, serious accidents can happen,” said Stephen Landells, safety expert with the British Pilots Association (BALPA).

“Birds can bend, break the propeller of the engine. The bigger and heavier the bird, the more serious the consequences. With a flight speed of 250 knots, when it collides with a moderate goose, the aircraft will bearing capacity equivalent to 22.6 tons.

Small, flocked birds can also cause accidents. In 1960, an Eastearn Airlines plane crashed in Boston after colliding with a flock of starlings,” Smith explained.

In 2009, an Airbus A320 piloted by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City when it collided with a flock of geese. The collision damaged both of the plane’s engines, and the passengers survived only thanks to Captain Sully directing the plane to land in the Hudson River.

Why are planes most afraid of hitting birds?
The famous crash in 2009, when a plane from New York collided with a bird and had to land in a river. The 2016 movie Sully took the script from this very accident. (Photo: AP).

This famous accident was made into a 2016 movie. After the accident, the New York City government decided to take many measures to reduce the number of birds around the airport. According to the AP, between 2009 and 2017, the city killed nearly 70,000 birds to ensure the safety of its airports.

Reducing bird populations near airports is a common measure to limit the number of bird collision accidents. In addition to biological measures, airports also apply technology to repel birds. Ultrasonic guns, laser lights or fake sounds of birds and predators are measures to help birds not focus on the airport.

“We monitor bird activity 24/7 and record everything. We also have a variety of strategies to keep birds away such as using loudspeakers, removing food sources, controlling grass length. and track the bird’s flight direction,” shared Joe Audcent, security officer at Heathrow Airport, UK.

“Pilots have many measures to make sure the birds recognize an approaching plane. The most important is to turn on the lights, control the speed so that the birds can avoid the aircraft,” Mr. Landells said.