Bird Strikes That Caused U.S. Airways Hudson River Plane Crash Are Transportation, Environmental Problem

It's in the best interest of both conservation and transportation advocates to keep birds away from planes.

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A U.S. Airways Flight out of LaGuardia crashed into the Hudson River today after it was struck by birds - a simple, but extremely dangerous hazard for aircraft around the world. The plane is still in the water, but all passengers are reported to have escaped into rescue craft.

Bird strikes, the aviation term for a bird hitting a windshield of a plane, or getting sucked into an engine fan, are as much an environmental problem as a transportation problem. They often occur at low altitudes, during takeoff or landing. Animal advocates and groups like the International Bird Strike Committee often work with airports and the Federal Aviation Administration to protect both birds and passengers from catastrophe. There are a few ways to do this:

  • Design airports to avoid bird habitats. The FAA's website lists gulls and waterfowl among the most dangerous to aircraft. Knowing the proximity of wetlands and bird habitats to runways can help mitigate risk.
  • Modify the environment of the airport to make it unattractive to birds. The International Bird Strike Committee, says that this could including removing trees and bushes from the area, eliminating or netting water bodies, and ceasing agricultural activity near the airport.
  • Modify flight paths. When birds are migrating, certain paths can be avoided.
  • Use other animals to keep birds away. Airports have successfully experimented with using dogs to chase away birds. Some airports have used falcons as predators for the smaller birds.
  • Capture and relocate birds. Birds can also legally be killed by aircraft authorities who have obtained the proper permissions, if the species is not endangered or protected.