Tuesday’s bird-hit incident at Ahmedabad airport involving a GoAir aircraft will add to its already abysmal statistics on wildlife-related incidents, according to which there were nearly 11 such events every 10,000 flights in 2019 — making it the worst among major aerodromes. This is almost twice as much as Delhi airport — the country’s biggest one — which had over five wildlife strike incidents last year.
The GoAir aircraft bound for Bengaluru on Tuesday was hurtling on Ahmedabad’s runway to take-off when one of its engines ingested a vulture, resulting in the powerplant catching fire, after which the take-off was rejected. Even as the incident may have caused disruption for passengers, pilots and aviation professionals have developed their means to deal with wildlife-related disruptions that have plagued the Ahmedabad airport, which saw one incident every four days last year.
On the one hand, pilots who regularly fly into or out of Ahmedabad make special efforts to prevent bird strikes and air traffic personnel have started informing the crew about bird movements in their flight path. At every airport where scheduled flights operate, an individual Airfield Environment Management Committee has been constituted to identify sources of stray animals or bird attractions at the airport and take necessary steps for bird-strike prevention.
According to government officials, the AEMCs are mandated to take “proactive measures on time-bound basis” to ensure that no illegal slaughter houses, garbage dumps etc exist in the vicinity of airports, which is a source of increased bird activity and may lead to wildlife strikes to aircraft during approach or take-off.
According to sources, the two primary contributors to the wildlife nuisance at Ahmedabad airport and the surrounding airspace are the presence of bird sanctuaries in the vicinity of the airport — the Thol Bird Sanctuary about 30 km away from the airport — and the larger Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, which is 70-75 km away. Both these spots attract migratory birds from the north in heavy numbers.
The second, more recent phenomenon, is dismantling of a large garbage dump in Ahmedabad, a move that has caused the birds circling the landfill to disperse. The dump is located almost directly in the trajectory of flights taking off from and landing into the airport. While in terms of frequency, the Ahmedabad airport, where US President Donald Trump is expected to arrive later this month, tops the list of wildlife-related incidents, Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport saw the highest number of absolute incidents in 2019 at 242. Ahmedabad was second at 93, while Mumbai was third at 73, and Chennai at fourth with 54 incidents last year. Goa’s Dabolim airport saw 41 such cases being reported in 2019.
In 2019, 1,280 wildlife-strikes occurred at all airports, slightly lower than 1,320 in 2018. In 2017, the number of incidents stood at 1,125, while in 2016 it was 839.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation have recognised wildlife strikes, including bird and animal hits, to aircraft as one of the “State Safety Priority”, and the aviation regulator regularly carries out aerodrome inspection that considered critical in with regard to wildlife strikes. These inspections are carried out jointly with representatives of various airlines and other stakeholders. The DGCA, then, shares the findings of these inspections with the airport operators.
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