Bird strikes a growing problem at U.S. airports

Wed Jul 1, 2009 5:20pm EDT
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Despite renewed efforts by New York officials to keep skies around the city's airports clear of wildlife, a passenger plane was damaged after hitting a bird as it landed this week in what is a growing industry problem.

While the flight landed safely at La Guardia airport on Tuesday, it became one of about 7,000 planes a year in the United States to be involved in a so-called bird strike, of which 14 percent suffer damage, industry data shows.

The problem costs the U.S. industry up to $650 million a year and the global industry $1.2 billion annually, said Michael Begier, national coordinator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Airport Wildlife Hazards Program.

"It's a problem that has been increasing," Begier said. "We're flying a lot, we have quieter planes, and we have a lot more wildlife. We're all competing for the same airspace."

Begier did not provide specific figures, but said bird strikes have increased over the past few decades.

A global spotlight was shone on the battle of birds and humans to share the sky when a jetliner struck a flock of geese shortly after takeoff from La Guardia airport and was forced to make a spectacular landing in the Hudson River off Manhattan.

"I think when people hear the word 'bird strike' now they know what it means," Begier said.

The water landing sparked new efforts to deal with the everyday problem of planes striking birds. Last month, New York began culling 2,000 geese from around the city's two main airports.   Continued...