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Are Airlines Liable for Bird Strike Accidents?

When you go on an airplane, you generally expect to have a safe, uneventful plane ride with an experienced cabin crew. However, accidents can occur while flying, with one of the most common being bird strikes. These airplane accidents happen when the plane collides with a bird, leading to sometimes devastating consequences. Thousands of airplane bird strikes occur in the skies each year, but many airlines have developed techniques to avoid these incidents.

What Are Bird Strike Accidents?

A bird strike accident occurs when a bird strikes the aircraft while in flight. These impacts usually occur on the airplane’s windshield or into one or both of its engines. In most cases, these bird strikes lead to damage to the aircraft. However, some bird strike accidents have resulted in fatalities and serious accidents.

Both large birds and flocks of birds can cause damage to planes. They can harm the windscreen and be sucked into the engines. These occurrences lead to unsafe flying conditions and critical damage, often leading the airplane to make an emergency landing.

According to Bird Strike Committee USA, bird strikes are very common and can lead to devastating consequences.

  • Since 1988, over 219 people died as a result of bird strikes while traveling by airplane.
  • In 2010 alone, the United States Air Force reported 5,000 bird strike incidents. Civil aircraft reported 9,000 bird and wildlife strikes in the United States the same year.
  • Between 1990 and 2009, bird strike accidents led to about $650 million in damages to civil aviation in the United States.

How Can Airlines Prevent Bird Strike Accidents?

Because bird strikes lead to such dangerous situations, airports have developed certain strategies to minimize their occurrence. Generally, airports and air controllers use three methods to prevent bird strike accidents: modifying aircraft behavior, modifying the habitat of the birds, and modifying the behavior of the birds.

Airports study the birds in their area to understand their behaviors. Using this data, these authorities can modify flight paths and schedules to reduce the occurrence of bird strikes. For example, some airports can use spotters to warn planes of birds or use radar equipment to track bird movement and density. Airports can also readjust their flight times to stop flying during times of high bird activity.

Airports can also take steps to control the birds to minimize strikes. They can modify the environment around the airport so that birds do not roost or feed there. Airports can eliminate bird food sources by removing plants or using pesticides. They can cover ponds with netting and remove brush and trees to reduce nesting and landing sites. In addition, airports can mow grass short to reduce bird shelters in the area.

In addition, airports can modify bird behavior and keep the population out of the area. The following strategies can help keep the birds out of the region without harming the birds.

  • Training dogs to track through bird habitats, increasing the bird’s awareness of predators
  • Using recordings and noise generators, such as predator calls and sonic cannons
  • Flying Falcons over roosting areas to disrupt other birds
  • Using lasers to scare birds from the area, mimicking predators

Airline Liability and Bird Strike Accidents

It is not very easy to determine liability in a bird strike accident. You could hold the airport at fault for not taking appropriate measures to reduce the prevalence of birds in the area. You could also hold the airline at fault for not taking precautions to avoid the birds. However, these entities can use an act of God defense to reduce their liability. However, the parties at fault can vary from airport to airport and based on the circumstances of your case. If you suffer injuries and damages in a bird strike accident, contact an air accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

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