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USA. Two bird strikes in 20 minutes. The controller explains why they are dangerous

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Two different United Airlines planes struck birds just 20 minutes apart after taking off from Houston Airport on Tuesday. Both machines were forced to turn back to the airport. – Even a small bird can cause a lot of damage. We expect many dangerous consequences in such situations – explains air traffic controller Wojciech Zawada.

The unusual event took place on April 25 near Houston International Airport. – Two different planes departing from George Bush Intercontinental Airport turned back to the airport due to bird strikes. “Both flights landed safely and we have placed our customers on other planes,” a United Airlines spokesperson said.

According to CNN, citing information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the first collision occurred at 20:50 local time. Departing to Santiago de Chile United Airlines flight 847 had to turn back after “an object hit the right wing” of the plane. Only 20 minutes later, to return to the apron of the airport. George Bush in Houston, the pilot of United Airlines flight number 2086, to whom “the crew reported a possible bird strike”, also decided to fly.

SEE ALSO: Initial report after the disaster in Nepal. Media: the pilots accidentally pulled the levers that turned off the engines

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Collisions of airplanes with birds

This is the second incident of this type that has happened recently. In mid-April, the media circulated reports of two collisions of birds with American Airlines planes. The first of these took place on April 20 at the Charlotte-Douglas airport in North Carolina. Just before takeoff fire started coming out of the plane’s engine. Passengers immediately notified the crew and the take-off was cancelled. According to the accounts of the participants of the event, an explosion was heard near the engine during taxiing.

Three days later, the crew of an American Airlines Boeing 737 shortly after takeoff from Columbus Airport informed about a possible collision with a bird. The engine of the plane with 173 people on board burst into flames. The pilot managed to turn back to the airport and landed safely. None of the passengers were injured as a result of the incident.

According to CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo, there has been an increase in the number of bird-plane collisions in recent years. The expert refers to American statistics, according to which over 2,000 such events have already occurred in the United States since the beginning of the year.

“Even a small bird can cause a lot of damage”

An increase in the number of collisions between aircraft and birds is also recorded in Poland, which is due to the systematic increase in the number of flights. According to the data published on the specialist portal kolizjezptakami.pl, in Poland “an almost 5-fold increase in the total number of incidents was observed in 2012-2020”. Birds such as kestrels, swallows, gulls, pigeons, swifts and skylarks are most often their victims.

– I would venture to say that harmless collisions with birds take place at our airport from spring to autumn at least once a day – admits Wojciech Zawada, air traffic controller at the airport in Krakow. – For the controllers, the collision with a bird is nothing extraordinary, and all procedures related to it are prepared and practiced many times – he points out.

However, the effects of such a collision can vary and bird strikes are always a potential threat to flight safety. Although the bird is small, it hits the plane with enormous force resulting from the speed achieved by the plane. – Due to the high speed of airplanes, even a relatively light bird can cause a lot of damage – emphasizes Wojciech Zawada. – In addition to the usual violation or deformation of the airframe structure (the main part of the aircraft – ed.), we air traffic controllers expect many dangerous consequences in such situations – he adds.

The controller lists possible hydraulic or engine failures. – History knows cases when a bird or its remnants after a collision were sucked into the engine and affected its work, for example depriving it of power – he pointed out. Even the mere contamination of the cockpit window by a bird, limiting visibility, can be dangerous, not to mention its breakage and depressurization of the cabin.

However, a collision between an airplane and a bird does not always mean that you have to turn back to the airport. – This decision is always made by the captain, and each case is considered separately – the controller points out. – My experience shows that the vast majority of such collisions allow the flight to continue to the destination airport and a detailed inspection on the ground. Serious consequences of bird strikes, resulting in the decision to immediately return to the airport, are extremely rare. However, we must be prepared for them – emphasizes Wojciech Zawada.

Interior of the airport control tower in WarsawTVN24

SEE ALSO: In-flight tragedy. The instructor had a heart attack, the pilot thought he was joking

CNN, tvn24.pl, kolizjezptakami.pl

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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