On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York City after its engines stalled due to impacting with birds. Upon investigation, it was discovered that a flock of Canadian geese had been hit by the plane. These birds are bigger and weigh more than what the engines on the plane were designed to handle during a bird impact.1 Fortunately, all 150 passengers and 5 flight crew members survived the plane crash.
Yet this is not the only incident involving wildlife FOD (Foreign Object Damage). On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed shortly after takeoff from New York City’s JFK (John F. Kennedy) Airport. Initially, investigators suspected the plane’s engines had sucked in birds that contributed to the crash.
Debris from birds was found inside the engines, which led investigators to believe birds were responsible for the engine failure. Even though birds were to blame for the engine failure, it was later discovered the vertical stabilizer broke off the plane and resulted in a loss of control.2
In 2001, figures for FOD damage caused by birds to commercial and military aircraft was estimated to be around $500 million, just in the United States. According to the Bird Strike Committee USA, bird strikes involving aircraft had been responsible for more than 400 deaths.3
As recently as October 24, 2017, JetBlue Flight 877 from Boston Logan International Airport had to schedule an emergency landing in New York City’s JFK Airport after the plane struck birds after taking off. The plane flew at a low altitude and a slow speed until it safely landed in New York City.4
This is just a sampling of incidents from 2001 through 2017. In the period from 1990 through 2013, there were approximately 142,000 wildlife FOD incidents. Of those, around 137,740, or 97%, involved birds striking aircraft at some point during takeoff or landing. The other 42,600, or 3%, involved other types of mammals and reptiles, such as bats, coyotes, deer, and alligators.5