Fatalities and Destroyed Aircraft in Civil and Military Aviation

The first powered flight by the Wright Brothers occurred in December 1903, and the wildlife strike problem began shortly thereafter.​

On 7 September 1905, the first reported bird strike, which Orville Wright recorded in his diary, occurred when his aircraft hit a bird—probably a red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)—as he flew over a cornfield near Dayton, Ohio, USA.  The first reported mammal strike occurred on 25 July 1909 at the start of Louis Bleriot’s historic first flight across the English Channel from Les Baraques, France.  During engine warm-up of his Bleriot XI aircraft, a farm dog ran into the propeller. On 3 April 1912, Calbraith Rodgers, the first person to fly across the continental USA, was also the first to die as a result of a wildlife strike, when his aircraft struck a gull along the coast of Southern California. 

Since those first wildlife strikes, aircraft designs and performance have changed radically. Some wildlife populations and air traffic have also increased dramatically. Today, worldwide, tens of thousands of wildlife strikes are reported annually for civil and military aircraft.  Based on statistics from the USA, where about 14,000 strikes with civil aircraft were reported in 2015, less than 5 per cent of these strikes cause damage to the aircraft (Dolbeer et al., 2016).  However, occasionally strikes can be devastating, as demonstrated in recent years by the emergency forced landing of an Airbus 320 with 159 passengers and crew in the Hudson River in January 2009 after Canada geese (Branta canadensis) were ingested in both engines, and the 19-fatality crash of a Dornier 228-200 in Nepal in September 2012 after a black kite (Milvus migrans) struck the aircraft on take-off (Thorpe 2012, Addendum 3).

Data compilation

John Thorpe, retired from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, spent many years compiling and updating a list of global civil aviation human fatalities and destroyed aircraft caused by bird strikes. These incidents were published in a series of papers at meetings of Bird Strike Committee Europe and the International Bird Strike Committee (Thorpe 2012, 2015).  Likewise, John Richardson of LGL Limited in Canada, and his colleague Tim West from the UK, compiled a similar list of military aviation fatalities and destroyed aircraft worldwide (Richardson and West, 2000). These published lists, when combined with incidents involving terrestrial wildlife (e.g. deer), and more recent bird strikes we have compiled, indicate that at least 500 people have been killed and over 600 aircraft destroyed because of wildlife strikes worldwide since 1912. It is likely that a number of serious strikes involving wildlife, especially from Asia, Africa, and South America, are yet to be documented.

Purpose of this database

Our objective is to make this published information on fatalities and destroyed aircraft, combined with our supplemental data, publicly available in a standardised database.  You cannot manage effectively what is not well defined or understood. 

We believe this database benefits aviation safety in several ways: 

  1. First, it allows aviation safety specialists, applied wildlife biologists, and others to analyse serious wildlife strike incidents objectively in terms of types of aircraft and wildlife species involved, phases of flight, time of year and day, and height above ground level.
  2. With over 100 years of data, it allows analyses of temporal and spatial trends in these serious strikes.
  3. It will help educate the general public and news media about the problem of wildlife strikes and aviation.
  4. It allows the worldwide aviation community to examine the data in a convenient and standardised format to provide supplemental or corrective information and to add strike incidents/accidents not yet documented.

If you know of a missing record, or if you have further information on a particular entry, please email pshaw@avisure.com, to help us ensure the database is as accurate and as comprehensive as possible.

Avisure Tableau dashboard

Avisure have created an interactive dashboard that provides a graphic visualization of the Fatalities and Destroyed Aircraft in Civil and Military Aviation –  Incident Database. There are two tabs, “Destroyed Aircraft and Fatalities” and “Wildlife Struck” which can be toggled between. Anywhere there are tick boxes, you can select or deselect a box to view different data. 

Complete incident database

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