Tailwinds To Roxie Laybourne

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A Qantas Boeing 737-800, carrying 126 passengers, had just taken off from Cairns airport on Sunday night when a bird was ingested into one of its engines. Thanks to technology partially developed by Roxie C. Laybourne, a pioneer in the science of forensic ornithology, the aircraft was able to return for a safe landing. Laybourne, who used her knowledge in identifying dead birds from their feathers in aircraft engine components, died on August 7 at the age of 92. She was regarded as a critical source of information for the proper design of engine and canopy protective systems to help guard airplanes from collisions with birds. Laybourne, who worked at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, originally became involved in identifying birds from their remains after a Lockheed Electra taking off from Boston in 1960 flew into a flock of starlings and crashed, killing all 62 people aboard. Her work helped develop airport bird-management programs and evidence-handling with several aerospace companies and the FBI. Laybourne was recognized in 1966 with a lifetime achievement award from the Air Force Bird Strike Committee.