It may appear that the birds are fragile little things that aren’t capable of doing much damage to these colossal airliners but, don’t be fooled by their size. Even with their diminutive stature, birds are capable of doing massive structural damage or even engine failure that can lead to a disaster. In aviation terminology, such an event is called bird hit, and it is classified as a top risk to the planes safety in the rule book.
Bird hits are very common among the high-speed fighter jets as their high speed prevents them from taking counter-measures in time. But such disasters on the jumbo jets and other commercial slow aircrafts are not so frequent as compared to fighters. Nevertheless, they do occur and may result in great tragedies. So, I am going to present you with some of the famous bird hits and what exactly did they do to these poor machines made of Titanium and Steel.
Are you among those who are afraid of flying? If the answer is yes then you are actually justified. Taking to air for the sake of transportation can be scary. Why? Because not much is in your control in case of a tragedy. Let’s face it, there’s not much you can do if an airplane has a malfunction and plummets to the ground. The most that you can do is to rely on a parachute and hope it works (given that you know how to make it work.)
Just to give you an idea about what can go wrong; the Egyptair 77-866 airplane that was approaching London’s Heathrow Airport recently underwent a situation when a bird made a direct hit with plane’s nose. The impact resulted in a gaping hole in the nose of the plane. Although 70 of the passengers remained unharmed and were probably not even aware of what had happened but it just goes to show that how unpredictable it can be when you are flying in air.
The hole was repaired on the same day and the plane was back to service on next day when it took off according to schedule. Here are two videos that show how devastating a hit by a bird or birds can be.
1. The very first Bird Strike
The pioneering bird strikes were experienced by none other than the Wright brothers. Orville Wright flew 4 Km in the plane and was chasing a flock of birds when he got hit by one of them, and it got lodged at the canopy. No significant damage occurred.
2. Eastern Airlines Crash
In 1960, a Lockheed Electra l-188 flew from Boston with 72 passengers on board. Shortly after take off, it ran into a flock of starlings and experienced damage to all the four engines. The plane crashed and 62 our of 72 people died in the horrific accident.
3. US Airways 1549 Emergency
In the recent years, the most famous case of a commercial airplane’s bird strike is the US Airways flight 1549. The culprit was a flock of geese flying nearby. The plane went into a dive after the turbine failure of both the engines. The skilled pilot, however, was able to make a stable dip into the Hudson River, and all aboard were safely evacuated by the rescue teams.
4. Space Shuttle STS-114
Bird hits aren’t limited to the Jets. A Space Shuttle in 2005 also experienced one. But, due to the low speed at that time, it couldn’t amount to much and the spacecraft continued without mishap.
5. Turkish Airlines Boeing 738
This one happened only two days ago. The Turkish plane was struck by a flock of birds as it descended towards the Cappadocia airport. The nose experienced substantial structural damage as shown in the snap below.
So, bird strikes are real dangers for aircraft safety. This potential hazard has invited aviation companies to look into the matter from an early age and provide possible solutions. There are many systems available now; that give a second or two warning of incoming birds, and an alert pilot can take evasive action if required.