A SHARP rise in the number of birdstrikes at Dubbo Airport is causing headaches for both air operators and Dubbo City Council.
Information released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau shows there were 13 birdstrike incidents reported around Dubbo City Airport during the six months to the end of April, more than double the six incidents reported in the same period last year.
Of the 13, six involved SAAB 340B aircraft operated by Regional Express and two involved Qantaslink Dash 8 aircraft.
The statistics show three birdstrike incidents were reported in the space of five days earlier this year, including a Regional Express plane hitting two birds during take-off on March 13, a Piper PA-31 striking a bird during take-off on March 15 and a Regional Express plane hitting a chicken hawk during take-off on March 17.
The most recent incident took place when a Regional Express plane hit a bird during a landing on April 25.
Dubbo City Airport Operations Manager Lindsay Mason said the council was “definitely aware” of the increased frequency in birdstrikes, and had been contacted by airline Regional Express seeking an explanation for it.
Mr Mason said March was an unusual month
“Recently we had an influx of black kites, which are part of the hawk family,” he said.
“It was a really wet month which brought out heaps of these birds. They were chasing little grubs around the airport.
“They are not very smart and they don’t get out of the way very fast,” Mr Mason said.
“Crows, on the other hand, know to get out of the way. I’ve never seen a plane hit one of them here.”
But Mr Mason said the council was doing everything necessary under its duty of care to try to prevent birdstrikes.
He said the airport employed a set of “harassment procedures” to keep birds out of the path of aircraft during take-off and landing, including sounding gunshots, but that the gunshots were not always the best option.
“If there are a couple of birds in the area but not on the runway, sounding a gun at the wrong time could prompt a whole flock of them to fly up into the plane as it’s trying to take off or land,” he said.
“Also, if we make those loud sounds too often, the birds can get used to them and ignore them.”
Mr Mason said council’s efforts to prevent birdstrikes were audited by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority on at least a yearly basis.
“If there were any deficiencies, they’d let us know soon enough,” he said.
Mr Mason said once a birdstrike had taken place, either the air operator or airport staff notified the ATSB, and personnel are deployed to the airport as soon as possible to retrieve bird carcasses.
“It’s important for research to try to find what type of bird has been hit, and we also need to clean up the mess because dead birds attract other birds,” he said.
A 2010 report by the ATSB found birdstrikes that resulted in aircraft damage, including where the animals had been ingested into engines, presented a significant hazard to aviation, and a considerable cost to airlines where birdstrikes resulted in aircraft frame or engine damage.
The study revealed birdstrikes involving aircraft in Australia had gradually increased in the eight years to the end of 2009.
It found most reported birdstrikes occurred within five kilometres of an airport.
One of the most serious international incidents involving birdstrikes took place in 2009 when an Airbus A320 ditched into New York’s Hudson River after striking a flock of geese and losing power in both engines.
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