Regulatory

Airbus to Offer Bird-Strike Protection as Option

By James T. McKenna | September 8, 2016


Airbus Helicopters, Inc. is making Precise Flight's Pulselite Bird Strike Prevention System available as an option on its aircraft as the U.S. industry puzzles over a sharp recent increase in midair collisions between birds and rotorcraft.

The FAA Rotorcraft Directorate late last year called for creation of a special industry/government group to review helicopter bird-strike protection standards, to be formed under the agency's Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee. 

That follows reports from the directorate and the U.S. Agriculture Dept. that bird strikes from 2009 through 2013 had spiked nearly 550 percent compared to the preceding five-yr period. In the 2004-2008 period, an average of 30.6 bird strikes were reported each year, the agencies said in mid-2015. In 2009-2013, the annual average had been 167.6.

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Airbus has signed a supply agreement with Precise Flight for the Pulselite system, which is an FAA-certified lightweight electrical system controller that alternately pulses the landing and auxiliary lights of a helicopter. The manufacturers say this increases the helicopter's visibility, reflecting the speed and directional movement of the aircraft. The Pulselite System has been shown to reduce bird strikes up to 66%, according to Precise Flight.

The recent exponential growth in global bird populations, combined with the increase in global air traffic, has caused bird strikes to become a primary safety threat and financial burden to rotorcraft operators. 

"Airbus Helicopters is committed to being the industry leader in safety and innovation," said Lindsay Cunningham, Airbus Helicopters, Inc.'s Director of Aviation Safety. "Bird strikes are a growing problem for helicopter operators. We are optimistic that the Pulselite system will help to reduce the number of occurrences, and we are proud to offer it as an option to our customers," Cunningham said.

Increased media attention on bird strikes, including the recent motion picture starring Tom Hanks about US Airways Flight 1549 that was forced to land in the Hudson River after multiple bird strikes caused engine failure, has increased public awareness of the threat of bird strikes. 

"The 'Sully' Sullenberger movie has directed significant public attention to the threat of bird strikes and has elevated the related safety conversations among aviators," said Doug La Placa, Precise Flight CEO. "Offering the Pulselite system as a safety option to their customers is a great example of Airbus Helicopters, Inc.'s industry-leading commitment to safety, and their ability to quickly respond to the ever changing conditions of aviation," La Placa said. 

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