Data Released On Planes Hitting Birds — And Other Critters

On Sept. 9, 2007, a Southwest Airlines 737 taxiing at Bradley International Airport ran over a skunk.

This is not exactly the kind of data I was expecting from the National Wildlife Strike Database, which everyone has been calling a “bird-strike” database, but it sure is interesting. Turns out that in the past 17 years, pilots have also reported 13 encounters with white-tailed deer in Connecticut, although mostly at small, general aviation airports. In some cases the aircraft didn’t actually hit the animal but had to abort a takeoff or swerve on the runway.

The FAA released the complete wildlife strike database online this morning, after abandoning the ridiculous argument that some of the details should be kept confidential. Aggregate information had been released previously, but airlines and airports were not identified.

The bird-strike data is interesting. Very few incidents at Bradley have involved any damage to aircraft, although the last 12 months of data (through November 2008) show an incident in which a bird strike cracked the windshield of a United Airlines A320 and a seagull bent the fan blades of a Southwest 737.

It’s not easy, though, to get a complete picture of the problem or to compare data. Reporting looks uneven. For example, in the last 12 months of data from Bradley, Southwest reported eight strikes and Delta, the other big carrier there, reported only one. Whether this reflects luck or differences in reporting protocols is hard to say.

Also, in many cases the only report comes from the discovery of a carcass, yielding no information about what hit it. If anybody wants to own up to hitting that raccoon … 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *