Bird Striking a Plane Not Unusual


Slack & Davis attorney Mark Pierce comments on US Airways Flight 1549 on KVUE-TV, Austin’s ABC affiliate.

Bird Striking a Plane Not Unusual
Reporter: Noelle Newton, KVUE
You may be surprised to find out how common bird strikes are. We spoke to several Austin pilots about their experiences. Pilots reported hitting a large bird just before landing during a Delta Airlines flight in February of last year. According to an ABIA spokesman, it was one of eight bird strikes between September of 2007 and August of 2008.

“It’s a major concern,” said councilmember and former pilot Lee Leffingwell, who flew for Delta for 31 years. He never came in contact with birds at ABIA, but wasn’t so lucky in other places.

“I’ve had several encounters. (I struck) a large bird in a 757 on takeoff. The engine just kind of burped once or twice and kept going,” Leffingwell said.

He says the risk of a bird strike at ABIA is minimal. However, much debate has centered around a landfill just south of the airport. Leffingwell says there’s no reason why birds would want to settle there.

“It accepts structural waste only, no food waste, the kind of thing that would attract birds,” Leffingwell said.

Flight instructor Mark Pierce prepares Austin pilots for the unexpected.

“Geese and ducks (are a concern) because of their size mainly and because they tend to travel in flocks,” he said.

Such an encounter could cause engine failure like what happened to the US Airways pilots at New York’s LaGuardia airport Thursday. To train for this, Pierce says pilots practice engine out procedures. Something he says the US Airways pilots executed to a ‘T.’

“They set it up and treated that river as a runway and just landed the airplane. That’s what we teach people to do and you would hope that a pilot, a pilot I trained would know how to do it,” Pierce said.

ABIA also uses the help of the US Wildlife Service to monitor the skies.