Database of fatalities and destroyed aircraft due to bird and other wildlife strikes, 1912 to present.

Database Developers

Phillip Shaw 

President/Managing Director,
Avisure, Burleigh, Queensland Australia.
pshaw@avisure.com

Richard Dolbeer

Science Advisor, Airport Wildlife Hazards Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS, Wildlife Services, 1228 Laguna Drive, Huron, Ohio 44839 USA

Wildlife strikes

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, as recorded by Orville Wright 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 12,000 strikes with civil aircraft were reported in 2020, less than 5 per cent of these strikes cause damage to the aircraft (Wildlife Hazard Mitigation (faa.gov)).  However, occasionally strikes can be devastating, as demonstrated by 3 incidents in recent years. On 15 January 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 (Airbus 320) with 155 persons aboard made a forced landing in the Hudson River after ingesting Canada geese (Branta canadensis) into both engines at 2900 feet above ground level after departure from LaGuardia Airport, New York. On 15 August 2019, Ural Airlines Flight 178 (Airbus 321) with 234 persons aboard made a forced landing in a corn field 3 miles from Zhukovsky International Airport, Moscow, Russia after ingesting gulls (Larus sp.) into both engines during take-off. Incredibly, none of the 389 people was killed in these “Miracle on the Hudson” and “Miracle in the Corn Field” bird-strike events even though both aircraft had been damaged beyond repair. In September 2012, 19 people were killed when a Dornier 228 crashed after striking a black kite (Milvus migrans) on take-off from Kathmandu, Nepal.

Data compilation

John Thorpe, who is retired from the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, spent many years compiling and updating a list of human fatalities and destroyed aircraft caused by bird strikes for civil aviation worldwide.  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 U.K., compiled a list of fatalities and destroyed aircraft for military aviation worldwide in a series of publications (Richardson and West 2000). These published lists, when combined with incidents involving terrestrial wildlife (e.g., deer) and more recent bird strikes that 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 strike events involving wildlife, especially from Asia, Africa, and South America, have 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, publically available in a standardized database.  Problems that are not well defined and understood cannot be properly managed.  We believe the availability of this database will benefit aviation safety in various ways.  First, it will allow the problem of serious wildlife strike incidents to be analyzed objectively by aviation safety specialists, applied wildlife biologists, and others with regard to such factors as types of aircraft and wildlife species involved, phases of flight, time of year and day, and height above ground level. Second, with over 100 years of data, it will allow analyses of temporal and spatial trends in these serious strikes.  Third, it will help educate the general public and news media about the problem of wildlife strikes and aviation.  Finally, it will allow the worldwide aviation community to examine the data in a convenient and standardized format to provide supplemental or corrective information and to add strike events presently not documented. Please help us here: if you know of a missing record, or if you have further information on a particular entry, please email pshaw@avisure.com

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the lifetime of work by John Thorpe, John Richardson, and Tim West in providing the foundation of this database.

References

Dolbeer, R. A., M. J. Begier, P. R. Miller, J. R. Weller, and A. L. Anderson. 2021. Wildlife strikes to civil aircraft in the United States, 1990-2020. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Airport Safety and Standards, Serial Report No. 27, Washington, DC., USA. (https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/media/Wildlife-Strike-Report-1990-2020.pdf). 

Richardson, W. J., and T. West. 2000. Serious birdstrike accidents to military aircraft: updated list and summary. Pages 67–98 in Proceedings of 25th International Bird Strike Committee Meeting. Amsterdam, Netherlands. (https://www.lgl.com/images/pdf/Richardson_West_2000_IBSC25-Amsterdam-as-publ.pdf).

Thorpe, J. 2012.  100 years of fatalities and destroyed civil aircraft due to bird strikes + Addenda 1-3.  Proceedings of the 30th International Bird Strike Committee Meeting. Stavanger, Norway. (https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/100-YEARS-OF-FATALITIES-AND-DESTROYED-CIVIL-DUE-TO-Thorpe/f35e611cf78423ba1415f1c32b05dbf5d2261ec1).

Thorpe, J. 2015.  Conflict of Wings: Birds Versus Aircraft. In Problematic Wildlife – a Cross Disciplinary Approach. Angelici, F. (Ed). Springer Dec 2015.

Richard Dolbeer

A Tribute to Richard A. Dolbeer:
scientist, innovator, manager, and mentor.

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. 

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