A Heuristic Risk Assessment Technique for Birdstrike Management at Airports
Collisions between birds and aircraft (birdstrikes) have caused the loss of at least 88 aircraft and 243 lives in world civil aviation. Conservative estimates suggest that more routine damage and delays following birdstrikes cost the industry and its insurers US$1.2–1.5 billion per year. The majority of strikes happen close to airports and most countries have regulations that require airport managers to control the birdstrike risk on their property. Birdstrike prevention has, however, lagged behind other aspects of flight safety in the development and implementation of risk assessment protocols, possibly because of the inherent difficulty in quantifying the variability in the populations and behavior of the various bird species involved. This article presents a technique that uses both national and airport-specific data to evaluate risk by creating a simple probability-times–severity matrix. It uses the frequency of strikes reported for different bird species at a given airport over the preceding five years as a measure of strike probability, and the proportion of strikes with each species that result in damage to aircraft, in the national birdstrike database, as a measure of likely severity. Action thresholds for risk levels for particular bird species are then defined, above which the airport should take action to reduce the risk further. The assessment is designed for airports where the reporting and collation of birdstrike events is reasonably consistent over time and where a bird hazard management program of some sort is already in place. This risk assessment is designed to measure risk to the airport as a business rather than risk to the traveling passenger individually. It therefore takes no account of aircraft movement rate in the calculations and is aimed at minimizing the number of damaging incidents rather than concentrating on catastrophic events. Once set up at an airport, the technique is simple to implement for nonexperts, and it allows managers to focus bird control resources on the species causing the greatest risk, hence maximizing the return on investment. This protocol is now being successfully used at major airports in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world.