Wildlife Strike: The presence (birds and animals) on and in the aerodrome vicinity poses a serious threat to aircraft operational safety.

Habitat: The natural home or environment of animal, plant, or another organism.

Bird Strike: A bird strike is a collision between an airborne animal (usually a bird or bat) and a man-made vehicle, especially aircraft. It is a common threat to aircraft safety which contributed to a number of fatal accidents.

This article has been divided into 13 parts:

  1. Documents
  2. Introductions
  3. Facts
  4. Comparison
  5. Formation of committees
  6. Habitat Management and Site Modification
  7. Common Types of Birds Causing Threat to Indian Aviation
  8. Bird/Wildlife Reporting
  9. Repellent Techniques
  10. Safety
  11. Penalties Imposed
  12. Conclusion

1. Documents

  1. ICAO Doc 9137 ASM (Airport Service Manual) Part 3 (Wild Life Control and Reduction)
  2. ICAO Doc 9332 (IBIS- ICAO Bird Strike Information System)
  3. ICAO Annex 19 Safety Management System (SMS)
  4. ICAO Doc 9184 part 2

2. Introduction

With the proliferation of jet aircraft and the increases in traffic that occurred throughout the 1960s and 1970s, modern jet-powered transport aeroplanes, with their greater speed, were seen to be at greater risk than their propeller-driven predecessors. Newer generations of aircraft continued to come into service, servicing ever increasing traffic needs and replacing older and less efficient aircraft.

In many parts of the world, successful wildlife conservation has led to increasing numbers of birds and other wildlife that are known to represent a risk to aviation. There is also increasing recognition that birds are not the only wildlife species to pose a threat to aviation safety. Some species of mammals and reptiles also pose a serious threat to aircraft safety. To adequately address the wildlife aircraft strike problem, wildlife/bird control on and around an airport should be expanded to include flying and terrestrial mammals and reptiles.

Due to growing traffic, comprised of greater numbers of quieter aircraft, and the increase in wildlife populations, greater effort is required to control and monitor wildlife movements on and within the vicinity of airports. In addition, the cost of downtime for inspection and repair of aircraft following bird/wildlife damage or suspected bird/wildlife damage is significant. The additional costs and disruption as a result of aborted flights, rescheduling of aircraft passengers and air cargo, transfer of passengers to alternative means of transport, overnight accommodation at the expense of the aircraft operator and the deleterious effects on connecting flight schedules that can be significant and damaging to airline operating budgets and public goodwill (the passenger experience) are also major factors in the cost of a bird strike.

It is apparent that data on bird/wildlife strikes need to be collected in order to better understand the dynamics of the bird/wildlife strike problem. The ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS) is ideally suited to this task. A complete Airport Services Manual description of IBIS can be found in the Manual on the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS) (Doc 9332). IBIS provides analyses of bird/wildlife strike reports received from States. An analysis of this data reveals that approximately ninety per cent (90%) of bird/wildlife strikes occur on or in the immediate vicinity of airports. The analysis of bird/wildlife data in respect of bird strikes and observations and monitoring of bird/wildlife activities can reveal trends that will assist airport authorities to recognize areas of concern which should be addressed through a well-managed wildlife control programme. Bird/wildlife strike statistics can also be analysed to determine those times of year or day when bird/wildlife control is needed the most.

 3. Facts

  1. Majority of bird strikes (65%) cause minimal damage to the aircraft and our concern is about  35% critical bird strikes.
  2. Most accidents occur when bird hits windscreen or is ingested into engine(s).
  3. The majority of bird collisions occur near or on airports (90%, according to the ICAO) during takeoff, landing and associated phases.
  4. The threat is magnified during the migratory season of the year or if the airport happens to be on the migratory path.
  5. According to FAA studies, a bird of 2 kg striking a plane flying at 650 km/hr would generate a kinetic energy of 32,600 joules.

4. Comparison

A baseball at full swing        : 112 joules

Bullet from a rifle                  : 5,000 joules

Hand grenade                       : 600,000 joules

5. Formation of committee

5.1 Establishment of a national committee:

Annex 14, Volume I, requires the wildlife strike hazard on, or in the vicinity of, an aerodrome to be assessed through, among other things, the establishment of national procedures and an ongoing evaluation of wildlife hazards by competent personnel. The establishment of a national committee is ideally suited to addressing this task. Such committees have proven to be popular forums to gain and exchange information on research and development in airport wildlife control.

Although the composition of a national committee may vary from State to State, it should include all stakeholders associated with or interested in the problem. It should be noted that national committees have very little authority in decision making and usually act as an information source for those in the aviation community. A national committee should include governmental departments such as transport, defense, agriculture and environment as well as representatives from the major aircraft and airport operators, flight safety officials, pilot associations and airframe and engine manufacturers. Those who provide specialist bird/wildlife hazard training should also be invited to participate.

5.2 DGCA perspective:

Advisory Circular  AD AC NO. 6 of 2017 lays down the general guidelines for establishment of wildlife management plan at an aerodrome. The principles in this document are coherent with the wildlife strike hazard reduction requirement of CAR Section 4 Series B Part I para 9.4       

The purpose of the manual is to provide airport operator with the information necessary to develop and implement an effective bird/wildlife control setup for their aerodrome. This manual outlines organizational structures that will effectively deal with the problem of bird/wildlife control. ICAO Airport Services Manual Part 3 (Doc 9137) may also be referred for detailed guidelines. Detailed procedure related to these guidelines are required to be included in aerodrome manual.

5.3 Some Committees/Circulars:

  1. Airfield Environment Management Committee – AEMC is headed by the Environment Secretary of the State Govt/UT Administration.
  2. At other places, it is headed by Commissioner or Head of the District concerned.
  3. National Bird Control Committee (NBCC) – Created on the strength of Ministry of Civil Aviation Order no. AV.15018/003/2009-VE dated 28th April, 2009
  4. Order No. AV-15023/1/2009-AS (NBCC) dated 02.12.2013
  5. Recommendation of NBCC – Education and outreach programmes
  6. Recommendation of NBCC – Extensive audits and inspection
  7. Bird Hazard Committee
  8. Aerodrome Advisory Committee
  9. Aircraft Rule 1937: rule 91 – Primary legislation (Aircraft Rules) preventing dumping of garbage and de-skinning of animals within a 10 km radius around airport
  10. Air Safety Circular 02 of 2011 – Comprehensive data collection activities
  11. Aerodrome Advisory Circular 06 of 2017 – Guidance on Wildlife Hazard Management
  12. As per the directives issued by DGCA vide CAR (CIVIL AVIATION REQUIREMENTS SECTION 4 – AERODROMES SERIES ‘X’ PART I ), Airport Operators have to work on establishing Runway Safety Program and formation of Runway Safety Teams. This CAR is issued under the powers conferred under Section 5A of the Aircraft Act 1934 and Rule 133A of Aircraft Rules 1937.

6. Habitat Management and Site Modification

Birds and other wildlife occur on airport property for a variety of reasons, mainly food, water, shelter, roosting, over flying, nesting and migration. Modifications to the airport’s habitat/environment to eliminate or exclude food, water and shelter can limit the attractiveness of an airport to birds and other wildlife.

But Before undertaking activities to manage the environment, it is important to first carry out an ecological survey of the airport and surrounding area to identify sources of food, water and shelter attractive to wildlife on and in the vicinity of the airport. This way, the environmental management plan is able to deal with specific conditions or habitats that are attracting wildlife.

6.1 Case Study 1: Nagpur Airport

The Mihan India Limited (MIL) that operates and maintains the Nagpur airport plans to conduct a year-long ecological study on bird hazards in the 15-km-radius of Nagpur Airport, in order to study the community composition of birds in different seasons, along with habitat relation of avian communities.

The aviation industry has been grappling with the challenging task of dealing with birds hitting aircrafts. At times, this leads to engine failure or emergency landings, which can be a cause for a potential threat to the lives of passengers and crew on board.

The MIL in a bid document floated, stated that it is conducting an ecological study in the vicinity of Nagpur Airport airfield to study community composition in different seasons and further training the operations and wildlife management personnel to identity bird species and apply correct management techniques for each species.

6.2 Case Study 2: IGI Airport

The most recent incident on bird strike was on 20 July 2018 when a Delhi bound Air India flight was forced to return after take off due to bird strike. In the same year itself the airport recorded a total of 85 bird hits, the highest since 2014 that is 1 bird strike per 922 flight. (TOI)

6.3 Case Study 3: Do the study of Hudson River Aircraft Landing.

6.3 Habitat Management

The aerodrome should be made unattractive for wildlife by adoption of habitat management strategies, adapted for the (most dangerous) type of wildlife that is targeted:

i. Fencing of the aerodrome

ii. Removal of bushes, deadwood,

iii. Removal of fruit trees

iv. Use of spikes

v. Removal of cadavers, insects

vi. Closed garbage bins, FOD policy

vii. Protecting covers over water (balls, nets)

viii. Steeper shores towards water surface

ix. Less attractive agriculture: beets, potatoes, chicory, turnips

x. Long grass policy

  • Aerodrome operators should establish contact with landowners around the aerodrome, develop constructive relations with them and encourage them to adopt measures to reduce the attractiveness of the site to birds or to mitigate the risk.
  • In addition to reducing the attractiveness of the site, it is also important to avoid creating new habitats on the aerodrome. And also in the vicinity of the terrain, aerodrome operators (should seek dialogue and cooperation with developers and should intervene as far as possible into planning decisions by the regional governments and incompatible land use practices in the vicinity of the aerodrome for any development that may attract significant numbers of hazardous birds.
  • The most effective habitat control measure that can be applied on the aerodrome is the management of the grass areas. Most birds dangerous to aircraft prefer short grass. Only partridges, pheasants and some small low weight birds prefer long grass. A long grass policy is no final solution and can only be successful if intensive grass maintenance is applied:
  1. A rigid cutting scheme needs to be followed, depending on the season and the meteorological situation. Too long grass that falls over because it cannot support itself, also has the potential to attract birds.
  2. The use of organic or inorganic fertilizers on an aerodrome is only acceptable if this is necessary to maintain the quality of the grass land. After this process, special attention from the personnel of the wildlife control unit is necessary.
  3. Freshly cut grass should be removed from the aerodrome site as soon as possible, as it might attract a lot of wildlife activity.
  4. Accumulated clippings from past cuts can form an intensive layer of decaying material that might weaken the grass.
  5. Special seed mixtures can limit the grass length to medium heights. The frequency of grass cutting can then be reduced. For the choice of a seed mixture, also the composition of the soil and the seed production of the grass (no agricultural grasses) have to be taken into consideration.

7. Common Types of Birds Causing Threat to Indian Aviation

  1. Kite               
  2. Falcon                       
  3. Kestrel
  4. Goose
  5. Peacocks       
  6. Pigeon
  7. Egrets
  8. Myna 
  9. Sparrow        
  10. Lapwing 

8. Bird/Wildlife Reporting

A standardized reporting system that documents wildlife species, numbers and location on the airport, as well as strike events, can provide the foundation for an ecological survey. From this ecological survey, prioritization of activities or projects within the plan may then occur. There are many wildlife attractants that an environment management plan can control.

AIR SAFETY CIRCULAR 02/2011 this circular describes the reporting requirement for wildlife/bird/animal strike to the aircraft in accordance with the new wildlife/bird/animal form developed by DGCA.

Wildlife strike reports shall be submitted by the aircraft and aerodrome operator as per prescribed Performa for forwarding to ICAO for inclusion in the ICAO Bird strike Information System (IBIS) database.

Note— The IBIS is designed to collect and disseminate information on wildlife strikes to aircraft. Information on the system is included in the Manual on the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS) (Doc 9332).

Action shall be taken to decrease the risk to aircraft operations by adopting measures to minimize the likelihood of collisions between wildlife and aircraft.

Note— Guidance on effective measures for establishing whether or not wildlife, on or near an aerodrome, constitute a potential hazard to aircraft operations, and on methods for discouraging their presence, is given in the ICAO Airport Services Manual, Part 3.

The aerodrome operator/owner shall take action to eliminate or to prevent the establishment of garbage disposal dumps or any other source which may attract wildlife to the aerodrome or its vicinity unless an appropriate wildlife assessment indicates that they are unlikely to create conditions conducive to a wildlife hazard problem.

Where the elimination of existing sites is not possible, the AEMC (airfield environment management committee) shall ensure that any risk to aircraft posed by these sites is assessed and reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.

Due consideration needs to be given to aviation safety concerns related to land developments close to the airport boundary that may attract /wildlife.

8.1 Analyses of Bird Strike Reports

  1. Total number of bird strikes that caused damage to aircraft (Emergency landings/aborted takeoffs) was 5%
  2. Bird strikes during day 69%
  3. Bird strikes at night 15%
  4. Remaining 11% bird strikes occurred during dusk or dawn

9. Repellent Techniques

Repellent and harassment techniques should be used to keep hazardous wildlife away from specific areas on or near an airport. The long-term cost-effectiveness of repelling hazardous wildlife does not compare favourably with habitat modification or exclusion techniques. Wildlife will return as long as the attractant is accessible. However, habitat modification and exclusion techniques will never rid an airport of all hazardous wildlife. Repellent techniques are a key ingredient of any wildlife hazard management plan.

When using repellents, four critical factors should be remembered:

  1. There is no single solution to all problems;
  2. There is no standard protocol or set of procedures that is best for all situations. Repelling wildlife is an art and a science. Motivated, trained and suitably equipped personnel who understand the wildlife on the airport are critical for the successful use of repellent;
  3. Each wildlife species is unique and will often respond differently to various repellent techniques. Even within a group of closely related species, such as gulls, the various species will often respond differently to various repellent techniques
  4. To lessen habituation to repellent techniques:

1) use each technique sparingly and appropriately when the target wildlife is present;

2) use various repellent techniques in an integrated fashion; and

3) reinforce repellents with occasional lethal control (only when necessary depredation permits are in place) directed at abundant problem species.

9.1 Types of Repellent:

  1. Chemical
  2. Audio
  3. Visual
  4. Wildlife patrols and runway sweeps in vehicles
  5. The use of trained falcons and dogs to repel birds
  6. Radio-controlled model aircraft to repel birds
  7. Non-lethal projectiles to repel birds

10. Safety

10.1 National Aviation Safety Plan:

DGCA India has come up with a five-year National Aviation Safety Plan (2018-2022) which promotes and supports prioritization and continuous improvement of aviation safety in India. DGCA India introduced the first State Safety Plan in the year 2015 by conducting an array of meetings and discussions with the stakeholders and assessing the worldwide safety priorities. The effectiveness of the State Safety Plan was evaluated and published in the Annual Safety Review 2016 and 2017, which provided basis for the development of the National State Safety Plan for 2018-2022.

It has been developed in partnership with the service providers and sets out the States’ Acceptable Level of Safety performance in terms of aspiration goal of “NoFatal Accident” in commercial air transport aeroplane and helicopter operations including off-shore helicopter operations, effective implementation of ICAO safety related SARPs and safety priorities, objectives, safety performance indicators (SPI).

In regards to Wildlife/Bird Strike the following data has been published:

10.2 Wildlife Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment:

1. Aerodromes should conduct a formal risk assessment of their wildlife strike risk and use the results to help target their wildlife management measures and to monitor their effectiveness.

 2. The total number of wildlife strikes should not be used as the only measure of risk or performance of the wildlife control measures at an aerodrome. Aerodrome operators also conduct an inventory of bird attracting sites on and in the vicinity of the aerodrome, paying particular attention to the approach and departure corridors.

3. Wildlife live on and around aerodrome property for a variety of reasons, however they are usually attracted by such essentials to life as food, water and shelter.

Typical examples of hazards are:

a) agricultural activities- fertilizing, ploughing, harvesting,

b) Waste, garbage dumps and landfills

c) Sewage treatment and disposals

d) Lakes and ponds, water reservoirs, swamps

e) Open terrains and grass land

f) Warm pavements and roof surfaces

g) Trees, shrubs, bushes,

h) Buildings, gutters, hangars,

i) Aerodrome equipment, markers,

j) Coast, fish processing

k) Lights attracting insects

A systematic method of obtaining information regarding wildlife strike risk on and in the vicinity of the aerodrome should be used. A typical risk assessment process may involve:

a) A hazard description, identifying wildlife species, associated habitats and seasonal factors that influence the size and the behaviour of wildlife populations in the area. A basic assessment to determine whether the movement patterns of birds attracted to sites on and in the vicinity of the aerodrome may cause a risk to air traffic.

b) The determination of the acceptability of the level of risk by combining the probability and the severity.An assessment of the probability of a wildlife strike with a particular species, taking into consideration the current mitigation procedures in place.

c) An assessment of the severity of the outcome of a wildlife strike, taking into consideration the size of the species. Special attention will be given to the number of birds involved (solitary or flocks) and serious multiple wildlife strikes.

d) The identification of possible further risk management options available.

e) This process should be reviewed annually to ensure validity by identifying new risk or changes in the existing risk levels.

10.3 Evaluating the Wildlife/Bird Strick

Wildlife hazard prevention should be an integral part of the aerodrome safety management system (SMS).

10.3.1 Questionnaire for assessment:

I) Local Assessment:

1. Has a bird/wildlife strike reporting procedure been implemented at the airport?

2. What is the bird/wildlife strike rate at the airport over the last five years (with or without damage to the aircraft)?

3. Is there a procedure to collect regularly information about birds/wildlife, both dead (carcasses) and living?

4. Has a means for positively identifying carcass remains been established?

5. How many reports from pilots are related to intrusions of wildlife, other than birds, over the last five years?

6. Has a list of bird/wildlife attractants at and surrounding the airport been completed?

II) Wildlife Assessment:

1. Is there a wildlife control officer responsible for the management of wildlife on the airport?

2. Has a land-use plan been established with regard to effective land use on and off the airport as it pertains to the wildlife control programme?

3. What ecological measures are implemented to reduce wildlife attractiveness at the airport and in the vicinity?

4. Is there a habitat management programme on the airport?

5. Are garbage dumps forbidden around the airport? If yes, within what distance are they forbidden?

6. Is the airport fence suitable to prevent hazardous animal incursions?

7. Which scaring methods are implemented at the airport?

8. Have staff been employed and trained specifically to scare off birds/wildlife at the airport?

11. Penalties Imposed

(Aircraft Act, 1937 rule 91) Prohibition of slaughtering and flaying of animals, depositing of rubbish and other polluted or obnoxious matter in the vicinity of aerodrome. –

No person shall slaughter or flay any animal or deposit or drop any rubbish, filth, garbage or any other polluted or obnoxious matter including such material from hotels, meat shops, fish shops and bone-processing mills which attracts or is likely to attract vultures or other birds and animals within a radius of ten kilometers from the aerodrome reference point. If caught in the above mentioned act the he/she shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to [three years, or with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees], or with both.

12. Conclusion

The new emerging concept of compatible land-use planning can be a good tool to focus on the environmental relationship between airports and their community neighbors. This planning concept is relatively simple and the results can be impressive, but the implementation requires careful study and coordinated planning. Land use around airports can influence restrictions on aircraft flights as well as affect aircraft safety. To successfully deal with land-use issues, a comprehensive wildlife management plan including coordination among the aviation regulatory authority, airport operator, aircraft operators and the surrounding communities should be implemented.  Some communities and airports have reached the point where the effect of land-use planning guidelines may be minimal. However, there are still instances where their use will result in more compatible airport and community development. Implementation may take the form of aviation system plans, legislation for compatible land uses, easements or land zoning.

Fatalities for civil aircraft are quite low and it has been estimated that there has been only 1 fatal accident to a jetliner in one billion flying hours. But contradictory to above statement the loss of life, property and the faith in civil aviation, being the safest mode of transportation hampers the ongoing operation drastically. So, even one bird strike is dangerous.

The End

Go where you feel the most alive !!

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