Bird Hits & Monsoon: What's the Connection? What Mitigative Steps Can Be Taken?

While bird hit incidents are common throughout the year, monsoons record a particularly high number of such cases.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Two recent incidents of birds colliding with aircrafts have led to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India's civil aviation watchdog, to issue a letter regarding steps to be taken by airports in the wake of monsoons to ensure air safety.

But what can be done on-ground to prevent bird hits in the air? And does monsoon have anything to do with it?

Two Delhi-Bound Flights Hit by Birds

A SpiceJet flight, a Boeing 737-800, that took off from Patna on Sunday, 19 June, was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after. A suspected bird hit on one of its engines led to fire and smoke and the pilot returned to the Patna airport. All 185 passengers were safely deboarded.

Bird hits are a regular feature across various airplanes, Captain Gurcharan Arora, Chief of Flight Operations, SpiceJet told NDTV. But usually bird hits happen in the airframe which "results in a small thud and no damage to the engine." However, in this instance, the bird directly hit the engine.


Earlier that morning, another incident involved an Indigo A320 Neo aircraft that took off from Guwahati and was hit by a bird at 1600 ft. The pilots of the flight 6E-6394 shut down the affected engine, declared PAN-PAN (emergency) and returned safely to Guwahati.

Why Do Bird Hits Increase During Monsoon?

According to DGCA data, in 2020 there were 1,152 reports of bird hits in the country and this number surged by 27.25 percent to 1,466 in 2021. This increase is due to the reduced airport activity during COVID-related travel restrictions as quiet airports attracted more wildlife.

While bird hit incidents are common throughout the year, monsoons record a particularly high number of such cases.

This is on account of the waterlogging and growth in vegetation around the airport. There is a lack of proper waste management systems and sufficient infrastructure like closed drains. This leads to an increase in the number of worms and insects in the area which attracts birds and other wildlife.

"We are all aware that during the monsoon season, wildlife (birds and animals) activity increases in and around airports. The presence of wildlife in the airport vicinity poses a serious threat to aircraft operational safety."
DGCA joint DG Maneesh Kumar, in the letter to all airport authorities

In addition to this, waste disposal sites around the airports also make them an ideal habitat for birds. This higher influx of birds poses a serious threat to general air safety.


How Dangerous Are Bird Hits?

Bird hits are a very common phenomenon. A survey by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which was conducted in 91 countries, revealed that at least 34 cases of bird hits are reported across the globe everyday.

Usually, the strikes happen during take-off or landing. However, a majority of these are not dangerous. The risks are higher when there is a larger flock of birds involved and considerably more when a bird is ingested into the aircraft's engine, a report by FirstPost said.

If the incident involves bigger birds, the collision may also cause cosmetic damages to the exterior of the plane and cost the airline large sums of money, the report added.

Measures Suggested by the DGCA

The DGCA, in its letter to all airport operators and airport directors, listed the steps to be taken to make the vicinity of airports less desirable for birds, to prevent their nesting in the area.

The letter suggested measures such as, "grass trimming and spraying of insecticides; frequent runway inspection for bird activities; deployment of bird chasers and bird scaring devices; regular garbage disposal in the operational area and avoiding water concentration and open drains."

Additionally, the airports have been told by the DGCA to arrange Airport Environment Management Committee (AMC) meetings to discuss and review implementation of measures to reduce bird hazard.

To tackle the problems outside the airport premises, the DGCA advised in its letter "frequent inspection by airport wild life hazard management team/AMC to identify sources of wild life attraction such as garbage dump, open disposal of abattoir/butcheries waste and coordination with local authorities for mitigation of sources of wild life attraction."

(With inputs from NDTV and FirstPost.)

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Topics:  Indigo   SpiceJet   Civil Aviation 

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