Why is there an increase in bird hits?

According to DGCA data, there were 1,466 bird strike incidents last year across Indian airports, a 27% increase from 2020.

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On Sunday, two bird strike occurrences 1000 kilometres apart caused the aviation regulator, the DGCA, to send a letter to airports across the country, urging them to carefully follow wildlife hazard management standards.

A SpiceJet Boeing 737 plane flying on the Patna-Delhi route on Sunday afternoon with 185 passengers on board landed back minutes after take-off after experiencing a bird strike.

The accident caused sparks and fire in one of the engines, leading the pilots to shut down that engine before making the emergency landing. Modern aeroplanes are designed to fly with just one engine. Because of increased insect breeding in neighbouring fields, bird and animal migration around airports increases during the monsoon season.

A Delhi-bound IndiGo Airbus A320neo was forced to return to Guwahati airport due to a bird strike in the second incident, which occurred hours later. The affected engine was also shut down by the pilots. When the aircraft’s left engine crashed, it was at a height of 1,600 feet. The majority of impacts take place below 3,000 feet above ground level.

The pilots made safe landings in both instances, and no one was injured. The presence of birds and animals on or near an airport poses a severe hazard to aviation safety. The most serious strikes are those involving ingestion of birds into an engine or windshield strike. They can result in emergencies requiring prompt action by the pilot. Engine ingestions may result in a sudden loss of power or engine failure.

According to DGCA data, there were 1,466 bird strike incidents last year across Indian airports, a 27% increase from 2020. This translates to about 4 bird strike incidents per day.

The Aircraft Rules 1937 prohibit dumping of garbage and slaughtering of animals in a way that could attract birds and animals within a 10 km radius of airports. Airports can use a variety of techniques to keep birds away from their facilities. Grass cutting, insecticide spraying, frequent runway inspections, the use of bird chasers, noisemakers, reflective tapes, laser beam cannons, and regular waste disposal are among the methods. There should be no water concentration and open drains, according to the DGCA.

Further, constant surveillance of the airports by their respective wildlife control units is necessary. While pilots are trained in managing bird-strike events, clearly more needs to be done on the ground by airport operators with the help of local authorities to reduce the occurrence of bird and animal strikes.

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