Bird Strikes Up 10% at Nation’s Airports in 2012

By Paul Riegler on 20 January 2013
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Korean Air A380 at New York's JFK Airport

A Korean Air A380 at New York’s JFK Airport

Bird strikes and wildlife collisions at the nation’s ten busiest airports in 2012 were up by over 10% compared to 2011.  For the first nine months of 2012, these airports experienced 1,416 incidents, compared to 1,282 for the same period in 2011.

Frequent Business Traveler reviewed data from the Federal Aviation Administration Wildlife Strike Database for the nation’s ten busiest airports and found that wildlife strikes were up at seven out of ten airports.

The five busiest airports, Atlanta, Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Denver, all saw an increase.  Wildlife strikes at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, the nation’s sixth busiest, were down by 38%.

The airport reporting the smallest number of wildlife collisions was McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which saw 13 in 2011 and 15 in 2012.  The airport with the smallest percentage year-over-year change was Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, down 2.4% in 2012.

The nation’s 11th-largest airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, reported 125 wildlife collisions in 2012, almost all involving birds, down from 140 in 2011.

All of the figures reported in recent years are significantly higher than the number of wildlife collisions reported ten years ago, although the total number of strikes is tiny compared to the overall number of flights.  The increase is attributable to better reporting and a greater awareness of the issue as well as an increase in the overall number of flights that compete with birds for airspace.

Last weekend, bird strikes forced two JetBlue planes to return to JFK shortly after takeoff.

In May of last year, Grant Cardone, a Delta passenger who made a video of a bird strike that occurred shortly after his Los Angeles-bound plane took off from JFK, received a stern warning from the FAA concerning his use of an electronic device during a critical phase of the flight (in this case, takeoff).  The aircraft landed safely after returning to JFK for an emergency landing.

Most bird strikes are minor incidents and involve a small bird hitting the wing or fuselage of a plane without doing much damage.  A small number of strikes can and do cause significant damage and a large bird ingested into a jet engine can bring an aircraft down.

This is what happened on January 15, 2009, when a US Airways Airbus A320 bound for Charlotte struck a flock of Canada Geese on its initial climb out and lost engine power after some of the geese were sucked into both engines, and ditched in the Hudson River.  All 155 passengers and crew on board survived and the incident became known as “Miracle on the Hudson.”  The aircraft was a total loss.

Since 1990, the FAA Wildlife Strike Database has recorded over 133,000 wildlife strikes.  Almost all occurred with commercial aircraft at or below 3,500 ft AGL (above ground level).





Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport



O’Hare International Airport (Chicago)



Los Angeles International Airport



Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport



Denver International Airport



John F. Kennedy International Airport



San Francisco International Airport



McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)



Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport



George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston)



*For the first nine months

Accura News

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