ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Impact of Birds on Airplanes

Updated on August 5, 2009

Take off is the most critical part of a flight when it comes to encountering dogs

Why airplanes and birds don't mix

For those fellows fearful of flying, another threat may be added to their large repertoire of things that may be going wrong while cruising at several hundred feet. Yet, many fearful fliers for some reason are more likely to fear thunderstorms or mechanical failure than an innocent flock of birds. Indeed, these volatile beings can be capable of causing substantial damage to airlines along with the dooming capability of bringing a jet airplane down.

For this reason, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending the FAA to revise its safety standards to support better impacts against flocks of large birds. The treats are real as more and more airplanes circulate in the skies and more and more birds are thriving because of environmental protection programs. As dogs are hired to chase away flocks of birds from airports and personnel work on removing bird nests close to runways, the chance of encountering some geese or pellicans still remains a risk.

Perhaps the best example of what birds can do to a plane is the recent incident named "The miracle on the Hudson River'': the US Airways Jetliner Flight 1549 which on January 15, 2009 flew straight into a flock of Canadian geese. The jetliner had just taken off from LaGuardia and was heading towards Charlotte, North Carolina, when just one minute and some seconds into flight at 2,700 feet,  the encounter with geese caused both engines to lose power.

The plane therefore, glided and landed in the icy Hudson waters thanks to the cold blooded and remarkable efforts of Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III. Thanks as well to the efforts of various ferries and rescue boats, all 150 passengers and five crew members on board were able to survive with a little bit of shock and a bunch of gratitude.

The consequences of a flock of birds flying against an aircraft can be tremendous. The mid air collisions caused by flocks of  birds may cause birds to break through the cock pit, collide against the engines and wings causing malfunctions and even stalling engines.

An isolated encounter with a small sized bird may not cause much trouble, this may happen quite frequently and uneventfully. Problems start when the plane flies through large birds often flying in flocks. Canadian geese, for instance, the type of bird causing the US Airways jetliner to ditch in the Hudson river, generally weigh between three to 12 pounds.

The risks of encountering flocks of large birds are much higher during take off mainly because it is at these altitudes that it is most likely to encounter these types of birds. Also, it is during take off that the engine's turbine blades suck in lots of air. According to Chris Yates, an aviation expert in an article by Joe Boyle ''How Birds can down an airplane'' :

''Plane engines are very delicate and a bird such as a Canada goose being sucked into the engine would prove catastrophic if it smashed the rotor blades" He further adds: ''We're not talking about bird bones here, we're talking about large chunks of metal crashing around inside an engine - it can impact virtually any part of the engine. However, instances where both engines are hit by birds are extremely rare''.

So far the Airbus engines have been tested to withstand the impact of a bird weighing about four pounds. However, when it comes to birds like Canadian geese that may easily weigh even  three times more, what can be done?.The most obvious solution would be  :Why not build engines able to withstand birds that large?

According to Greg Feith, a prior National Transportation Safety Board investigator  the answer is simple:"You can't build engines to handle that because they would weigh so much that the plane would never get off the ground."

It may ultimately be quite difficult to accept that the skies may not always be friendly as we may like. As humans, we often forget that we are not the only creatures living in this world and often, we are reminded about this in these remarkable tragedies. Thankfully such happenings are not that common, but the chances appear to be on the rise due to the increase of air traffic and birds in the skies.

A great simulation of the Hudson River Miracle


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)