Federal Aviation Administration data sheds light on bird strike frequency

    On average, FAA notes 40 bird strikes per day (Credit:Robert Catanese)

    Federal Aviation Administration data shows on average, there are more than 40 bird strikes a day.

    In 2017, there were 14,496 strikes with 625 incidents causing damage to the aircraft. Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport officials said there are, on average, two strikes per year. That number doubles to four at Hilton Head Airport.

    “Typically the airplane wins and the bird loses. Bird strikes here at the airport are an ongoing issue,” said Larry Yeager, chief of operations at Hilton Head airport.

    FAA data reveals that the majority of bird strikes happen upon takeoff, something pilot Cassie Rindal is well aware of.

    “Try to maneuver away from them or if they are coming right at you and there’s nothing you can do, you just have to hit them and try and get down as safe as possible,” she said.

    The Smithsonian’s Feather Identification Lab, which is kind of a CSI for birds, analyzes the remains and the DNA of the bird.

    Michael Begier is the National Coordinator of Wildlife Hazards which is a division of the Department of Agriculture said the remains analyzed help determine the bird’s migratory patterns and arms airports with the data.

    “It’s very critical to collect that data and it can be used to further refine the recommendations to make the airport,” he said.

    Begier said there is some good news regarding bird strikes.

    “Only about four percent of all of these reported strikes are actually damaging to the aircraft,” he said.

    He said large commercial airports run the risk of bird strikes, however, smaller airports similar to Hilton Head have other wildlife concerns.

    “It could be an alligator, a deer, a coyote or birds, but they are out there everywhere and all the airports have to deal with that,” said Yeager.

    Bird strikes, according to the FAA, account for 98 percent of all wildlife strikes reported.

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