U.S. aviation officials are noting a big spike in reported incidents of birds colliding midair with helicopters from 2009 through 2013, and they are not sure why it happened.
The average number of “bird strikes” reported during that five-year period was nearly 550 percent greater than the number reported from 2004 through 2008, according to data collected by the FAA and the federal Department of Agriculture. In the 2004-2008 period, an average of 30.6 bird strikes were reported each year. In 2009-2013, the annual average was 167.6.
|Source: FAA/U.S. Department of Agriculture reports of wildlife strikes to civil aircraft.
Also, within that 2009-2013 period, the number of reported bird strikes increased each year. In 2009, the agency logged 121 reported bird strikes. That rose to 136 in 2010, 179 in 2011, 198 in 2012 and 204 in 2013. (The FAA has a full year of analyzed reports for the last 12-month period.)
“The curve is really exponential,” said Larry Kelly, manager of the Rotorcraft Standards Staff at the FAA’s Rotorcraft Directorate in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’re seeing a lot more bird strikes with Part 27 aircraft,” that is, the section of the Federal Aviation Regulations that governs rotorcraft in the Normal category with maximum weights of 7,000 pounds or a seating capacity of nine or fewer.
“It’s been many years since we’ve had a fatality” from a bird strike, Kelly said, “but people are being maimed. They’re having serious injuries.” He pleaded with pilots, “Please wear your helmet.”