Aviation Trivia: How does a bird-strike harm a multi-million-dollar plane?


Bird strikes are a huge threat to planes, often leading to emergency landings and, at times, even to casualties. In India, recently, the cases of bird strikes have been increasing, the rise in such cases forced the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue guidelines to carry out regular patrols to keep a check on animals, birds, and any wildlife activity around the airport. The aviation watchdog requested air operators to identify the gaps and strictly implement the regulations in the vicinity of the aerodrome. But what happens during a bird strike that can harm a multi-million dollar plane?

Where do bird strikes occur?

Before we get into the ‘how’ part of the question, it is essential to understand that bird strikes often occur near airports. Precisely, the birds or animals hit the plane while it is closer to the ground, that is, whilst taking off, landing, when the plane is cruising at low altitude, or when the plane is still ascending or descending. However, in some cases, they occur even at heights like 4,500 m or even at 7,290 m because of some species of birds that tend to fly high.

How does a bird strike harm a plane?

Referring to simple physics, it is easy to understand that the amount of damage on a plane inflicted by a bird strike on a plane depends on the weight and the speed of the bird. The weight and the speed of the bird are directly proportional to the damage suffered by the plane.

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Needless to say, bird strikes, in most cases, cause damage to the aircraft’s forward-facing components, such as the windscreen, nose cone, and engines. Bird strikes to the nose cone can cause significant damage, but they rarely cause the flight to be aborted. Windscreen damage is more serious, as a shattered windscreen can result in a loss of cabin pressure, necessitating a diversion to a nearby airport.

The situation can be worse if the bird gets caught in the engine of the plane, also known as jet engine ingestion. In this case, the engine can be severely damaged, leading to an emergency landing at the nearest airport. 

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