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World Birdstrike Association

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Airline-based Management Plans

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Phil Shaw - Managing Director, Avisure.

Kylie Patrick & Jeff McKee - Avisure.


Worldwide bird strike rates are increasing. In the face of these trends, the traditional practice of attempting to reduce strike and strike damage rates by statically managing bird numbers around the airport is only part of the solution, highlighted by an increasing trend toward serious strikes occurring outside aerodrome confines.

Some countries have responded to these trends by introducing guidelines to restrict land uses that attract wildlife in the vicinity of the aerodrome but outside the aerodrome proper. This approach is certainly useful and will contribute to a reduction in strike risk in some cases; for example where a landfill or artificial water feature is collocated with an airport every attempt should be made to separate these from critical airspace and to prevent future such collocations. This linear approach may well lead to a transient reduction in risk but will it lead to a long term and consistent reduction in strike rate/risk?

We argue that it will not – the system is too dynamic - “one bird’s habitat is another bird’s poison” and vice versa. It implies remodeling the meso-scale and micro-scale habitats in the vicinity to affect a permanent “oligoculture” of low risk species transiting through the local critical airspace. At best this approach may result in a local, transient and not necessarily predictable change in species mix but from an ecological and mid-air conflict perspective it can hardly be expected to be rate limiting in all cases. This approach is also problematic from an administrative perspective with often unenforceable guidelines that are difficult to be made retrospective. We don’t suggest abandoning this approach, we just consider other approaches are also necessary if we are to succeed.

The expectation that aerodrome operators alone can effectively reduce mange the escalating strike issue is flawed. It is flawed from a physics perspective, flawed from ecological and scale perspective, and flawed from an air operational perspective. Worst of all this expectation puts an unsustainable burden of responsibility on aerodrome operators who by themselves have no experience managing in-flight conflict or collisions and no authority over the flight paths of the conflicting elements. Simultaneously this expectation covertly erodes both the authority and responsibility of pilot in command.

Clearly a more inclusive and integrated industry approach to strike management is long overdue. Aerodrome operators certainly need to continue attempts to reduce bird numbers around the airfields by passive and active means but in order to gain significant industry wide reduction in strike risk airlines, aircrew and air traffic control and regulators need to positively engage with the issue. This is slowly starting to happen. Some European and North American operators are looking at the strike issue more critically and quite unexpectedly three airlines independently recently approached us to help develop airline based strike management plans. This positive trend is no doubt being motivated by the fact that the more progressive airlines now have mature integrated safety management systems and are now beginning to realize just how safety, capacity and cost effective it can be to get proactive with this issue. The costs associated with strike to airlines are notoriously difficult to estimate; many airlines do not accurately assess the inclusive costs of strike and/or do not generally make such estimates publically available. However a recent anonymous review of internal data from four airlines spanning Oceania, Europe, North America and South America with fleet sizes ranging from 40 to 500 showed that when averaged out over time, every strike to a medium/high capacity passenger aircraft costs about USD$25,250 (range $10000- $39000). At the recent WBA (IBSC) meeting Norway WIZZAIR, a small low-cost European carrier reported average strike costs (direct and indirect) to their operation of €150000 for damaging strikes and €15000 for non damaging strikes. When applied to their overall strike record between 2009-2010 this resolved a cost estimate of €24000/strike (USD $31000). WIZZAIR went on to demonstrate quite convincingly that proactive airline strike management is not only possible but is cost effective. They implemented an SMS based company strike management policy comprising collaboration with port authorities, compliance checks and simple alterations to flight procedures and reporting; in the first year of the program they reduced strikes by 20% damaging strikes by 10% and logged a 40% reduction in strike related delay.

Airline-based Management Plan

Airport-based wildlife hazard management plans aim to provide users with context, knowledge and procedures on how to mitigate the strike risk. Airline-based management plans should do the same. They should equip airline personnel with all the tools necessary for effective implementation. Key functions of an airline-based management plan should:

  • Define roles, responsibilities & the legal framework.
  • Review the history & current status of bird strike (including the financial and capability costs of wildlife strike, and how wildlife strikes compare to all other operational occurrences.
  • Define the strike risk management priorities by wildlife species, ports and aircraft type.
  • Outline the behaviour, movement patterns & flight performance characteristics of birds and bats relevant to the airlines sphere of operation. Factors may include resource requirements, habitat utilisation and movement patterns, aerodynamics, flocking, vigilance, collision detection and threat avoidance.
  • Define the factors that affect the probability and consequence of wildlife strike for the airlines operation. These may include biotic, abiotic, aircraft and operational factors.
  • Provide methods on how to detect, assess and analyse the wildlife strike risk from the ground, and from the cockpit.
  • Develop and maintain effective strike reporting protocols and data management systems that allow ready estimates of costs delay down time and follow on effects of strike.
  • Collaborate with ATC, regulators and aerodrome operators in developing workable communication and notification procedures for strike risk status for different phases of flight.
  • Collaborate with regulators and aerodrome operators in setting discrete and achievable targets for strike rate reduction within the airline’s sphere of operation.
  • Develop and implement flight crew training and currency requirements relevant to strike mitigation
  • Develop strike investigation protocols.
  • Provide standard operating procedures (incorporated into existing integrated SMS) on how to mitigate risk at the flight scheduling, planning and flight execution stages.
  • Develop performance indicators and metrics to measure the effect of mitigation and the progress of plan implementation.
  • Make provision for contributions to strike mitigation Research and Development particularly in the areas of remote sensing hazard detection, on-board bird collision avoidance systems and on-board wildlife deterrence devices
  • Lobby to expedite the development of regional and terminal integrated bird forecasting and reporting systems.

Airline-based Best Practice Guidelines.

In 2006 the IBSC released Recommended Practices No.1: Standards for Aerodrome Bird/Wildlife Control. Since then it has become synonymous to aerodrome strike hazard management worldwide, and in many countries it is the cornerstone to measuring and auditing airport programs. Its function in the global aviation industry has become further consolidated by its inclusion in the recent update of the ICAO Airport Services Manual Part 3 – Wildlife Control & Reduction, Doc 9137 (2012). Developing best practice guidelines for airlines could prove just as useful in providing informed direction and guidance on how airlines can contribute to bird strike risk management. Although worthy of much discussion amongst key industry stakeholders, standards could be developed for elements such as:

  • strike reporting
  • calculating costs of strikes
  • risk assessment
  • the provision of training to fight and ground crew
  • airline strike response
  • hazard notification
  • internal audit criteria
  • external (airport) criteria
  • local, state, national and, where applicable, global roles and responsibilities

Despite the challenges of globalising standards, a considered approach, involving those with the knowledge and know-how, can help establish operational quality that translates to reduced strike rates, reduced damage rates, reduced repair costs, and safer skies for our people, aircraft and birds.


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