Bird Strikes A Growing Concern...

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As Spring Gets Everyone Flying...

Welcome to migration season. The birds are out there -- even (and in some cases, especially) after dark. The conflict between aircraft and birds is a real and growing problem -- about 60,000 bird strikes to U.S. aircraft were reported to the FAA from 1990 to 2003, and perhaps four times that many went unreported. A 12-pound Canada goose struck by a 150-mph aircraft, says the Bird Strike Committee USA, generates the force of a 1,000-pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet. Damage to aircraft is estimated at $400 million per year, and up to 400 (human) deaths have been blamed on collisions with birds. During the spring and fall migration, activity levels are high. Now new radar systems, being tested in Alaska, Scotland and elsewhere, might help to mitigate the hazard. Voluminous statistics on the interaction between birds and airplanes are kept by the Bird Strike Committee USA, a volunteer group comprising representatives from the FAA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense and the aviation industry. The committee says that between 1990 and 2002, waterfowl accounted for 31 percent of the reported strikes that caused damage to aircraft, gulls for 29 percent, and raptors (hawks and other birds of prey) 17 percent. Other fun facts from the Bird Strike Committee: Starlings are "feathered bullets," having a body density 27 percent higher than herring gulls. North America's Canada goose population tripled from 1990 to 2002, to 3.5 million birds. The Great Lakes cormorant population grew from about 200 nesting adults in 1970 to 230,000 nesting adults in 2000, a 1,000-fold increase. Pelican populations in the U.S. have grown at annual rates up to 8.5 percent since 1980, meaning the population doubles approximately every eight years.