As a follow on from my recent comments regarding the US Airways incident in New York a few days ago, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the implications of bird strikes on commercial aircraft.
I’ve previously mentioned that bird strikes are relatively common. Although I’ve only experienced it once in 3000 flights. During a landing in Rome one or more birds flew into our left engine. The landing continued as normal, and the passengers were not even aware of the event.
As a precaution, engineers are called to the aircraft to check the engine. There is a possibility that jet engine ‘blades’ can be broken, and debris can remain inside. Before the aircraft can be allowed to take-off the engine must be fully inspected for any damage and debris.
In this case, our engine was ok and we were cleared for departure after a hefty 4 hour delay. The inspection is in-depth, and there is plenty of paperwork to complete too!
This is normally as serious as a bird strike gets. But, every now and then, a more serious incident occurs. What happened to Flight 1549 on Thursday afternoon is extremely rare. Of course, the events have not been fully investigated as yet, but it appears the aircraft flew into a large flock of birds (possibly geese). The pure number of birds resulted in both engines being damaged enough to lose power.
As we all know, the captain done a fantastic job of bringing the aircraft down safely into the Hudson River. Followed by the flight attendants doing a fantastic job in evacuating all passengers.
There is no point in lying to you, this incident would have been pretty terrifying. But, it’s very rare that a bird strike of this magnitude occurs. Airports are continuously monitoring the area for birds, and will warn pilots of any large flocks nearby. Sometimes flights are even delayed until they have been cleared.
Bird strikes are rarely dangerous, and happen regularly. Airports and airlines must continue to work together to ensure incidents like Flight 1549 are avoided. Rest assured that bird strikes do not usually result in a loss of engines.
Another quick point. 100% of the passengers on the flight survived the landing on the Hudson River. As David Blatner states in his book (The Flying Book: Everything You’ve Ever Wondered About Flying on Airlines) in 86% of commercial airline accidents, nobody dies at all. Air travel is approximately 99.9999996% safe!
Below is a video of a typical bird strike. The video shows the event in full, along with the conversation between the pilots and Air Traffic Control. Notice how there was never any panic. The aircraft landed safely. The fire trucks are scrambled as a precaution.