Bird strikes are a serious hazardous risk for airline travel, but one lab in the Smithsonian Museum is helping tackle this air space fight between birds and planes. As the video below states, bird strikes in the US cause $1 billion in damages every year to the civil aviation industry.
Airport biologist Casey Kerr explains that many of the bird hits take place because certain species are attracted to the wilderness in the vicinity of an airfield. Raptors in particular are a big problem and Kerr showed that he had recovered 250 bird in the vicinity of Baltimore airport over five years.
Adding to the problem, Kerr explained that on many occasions, the species of bird is tough to identify from the remains found on various aircraft. That’s where the Smithsonian Feather Identification Lab steps in. It is part of Washington’s Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and maintains a record of bird strikes in the US.
In the video, Carla Dove, Director, Smithsonian Feather Identification Lab, says, “We receive over 10,000 cases of bird strikes every year to identify. Given the different samples, we match feathers, to obtain a match on the basis of colour, texture, features of the textures and patterns.” Dove added that once the species are identified, the information is sent to databases and engineers.
Among its resources, the Feather Identification Lab traces samples back to the days of Charles Darwin, and claims to keep a record on 600,000 species, which is almost 85 per cent of all bird species. Of course, it was the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ case, which really highlighted the issue, as Dove points out. In the incident that took place in early 2009, US Airlines Flight 1549 made an emergency landing on New York’s Hudson river. The aircraft was forced into an emergency landing soon after takeoff, as the plane hit a flock of Canada geese. The impact disabled its engine power, and made it impossible to land at nearby airports, forcing the pilots to glide it into ditching on the Hudson.