Double Bird Strike: Did it crash US Airways Flight 1549?
A double bird strike by Canadian Geese brought down US Airways Flight 1549, flying from New York to North Carolina in the Hudson River today.
What is a bird strike?
How can that happen? How can a bird or a group of birds bring down an entire airline? And how often does this happen?
It happens more often than we may think it does.
In the case of US Airways Flight 1549, it was a double bird strike - meaning two birds were sucked into the plane's engines at the same time. A flock of Canada Geese hit both engines at about 3,000 feet after takeoff and both engines were lost. Canada Geese are native to North America and are distinguishable by their black plumage and the white band around their neck.
A bird strike, or birdstrike or bird hit, is when a collision occurs in the air between an airplane and a flying animal.
Most bird strikes happen during take-off or landing, but they have been known to happen at thousands of feet in the air. It is especially dangerous when a bird or group of birds is pulled into the engine of the plane; this often causes the aircraft to go down. Pilots cannot often avoid birds in the air, except when they are taking off and they see a group of them on the ground below them, but once the plane is in the air, the aircraft is just too big to manouver around one small bird or a few birds.
It can be extremely dangerous as if a bird is sucked into a jet engine and that blade is displaced, then that can cause a cascading failure, meaning that the plane will have to make a crash landing.
According to the Bird Strike Committee, bird strikes cause about $600 million worth of damages to the aviation industry every year.
Usually birds flying into planes doesn't even register as turbulence, but around 200 people have been killed since 1988 due to collisions in the air with birds. The size of the bird doesn't matter because even small birds can get stuck in the engines and bring down the plane.
There have been a number of bird strikes since recording began in about 1905.
Just late last year, a Ryanair jet was forced to make an emergency landing in Rome when birds were sucked into the engines.
Wikipedia has some examples:
The first reported bird strike was by Orville Wright in 1905, and according to their diaries Orville … flew 4,751 meters in 4 minutes 45 seconds, four complete circles. Twice passed over fence into Beard's cornfield. Chased flock of birds for two rounds and killed one which fell on top of the upper surface and after a time fell off when swinging a sharp curve.
The first recorded bird strike fatality was reported in 1912 when aero-pioneer Cal Rodgers collided with a gull which became jammed in his aircraft controls. He crashed at Long Beach, California, was pinned under the wreckage and drowned.
The greatest loss of life directly linked to a bird strike was on October 4, 1960, when Eastern Air Lines Flight 375, a Lockheed L-188 Electra flying from Boston, flew through a flock of common starlings during take off, damaging all four engines. The plane crashed shortly after take-off into Boston harbor, with 62 fatalities. Subsequently, minimum bird ingestion standards for jet engines were developed by the FAA.