Adding to the recent spate of bird-hit flights, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath‘s chopper made an emergency landing post one such hit right after take-off. Reports state that officials said that a bird hit the window of the Lucknow-bound helicopter after it took off from the airport. Subsequently, the pilot requested an emergency landing and the chopper landed back safely at Varanasi’s Police Lines Ground.
Here’s what to know about bird hits and passenger safety
While most bird strikes are manageable, the ones considered critical are collisions that happen with a window or windscreen which might crack the structure. In such cases, pilots look to land as soon as possible. Strikes can be of two types – a small bird, and a big bird, or a flock of birds.
Such cases are reported during landing and take-off which can also distract the pilot during the most important stages of the flight. According to Colonel Rajgopalan (retired), founder of Aviation Training India, a company which trains and mentors pilots, “Since modern aircrafts are well-equipped with triple modular redundancy (where if one system goes off, other substitutes), minor bird strikes can be handled by pilots in most instances.”
What happens in case of bird activity?
An aircraft has to take off at a particular speed which can’t be reduced due to bird activity, explained Colonel Rajgopalan. “Normally, in case of heavy bird activity, Air Traffic Control itself delays the departure and deploys techniques to scare the birds off like using blow guns which are cylinders of gas that make noise due to the air pressure, or shiny metal ribbons that are tied near runways to scare off birds,” he said.
Recently, following the incidences of such bird strikes as well as animal hits on airport runways, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) wrote to States to carry out aerodrome inspections to check on wildlife presence in the nearby areas of airports and runways.
“We are all aware that during the monsoon season, wildlife (birds and animals) activity increases in and around airports. The presence of wildlife in the airport vicinity poses a serious threat to aircraft operational safety,” the DGCA noted in its letter to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and private airport operators.
According to a previous indianexpress.com report, the top five airports which reported the most wildlife strike incidents in 2021 were Delhi (231), Mumbai (140), Ahmedabad (71), Kolkata (70) and Kochi (56).
In its letter, the DGCA asked the airports to ensure that within the airport premises, the grass is trimmed and insecticide is sprayed, in addition to conducting frequent runway inspections for bird activities and deploying bird chasers and bird-scaring devices. It also stated that airports must ensure regular garbage disposal in the operational area and to avoid water concentration and open drains.
“All airports are requested to review their wildlife hazard management plan for any gap and ensure strict implementation of strategies for wildlife hazard management within and also outside the airfield,” the DGCA said in its letter.
Agreed Colonel Rajgopalan and said that bird activity near airports must be reduced. “The old airports have lots of garbage dumps around them where birds congregate. In foreign countries, there is strict law against garbage dumping areas within a particular radius of the airport. But in India, these laws are not being followed. This is the reason why there is a lot of bird activity near an airport or helipad,” the expert told indianexpress.com.
What can passengers do in such times?
Mark D Martin, MRAeS, member of Royal Aeronautical Society United Kingdom, CEO of Martin Consulting. Martin Consulting which is an aviation safety firm based in Asia, said that passengers “cannot do much”. “Bird hits are a result of man-animal conflicts, and can occur at any time. Here, passenger cannot really help except trying to maintain calm,” he told indianexpress.com.
According to Colonel Rajgopalan, passenger should:
*Be alert and if they are sitting close to the emergency exit, they should inform the cabin crew of any fire etc.
*Fasten their seatbelts until the seat belt sign comes off.
*Listen to the instructions of the crew and follow them.
What can helipads and airports do?
*Helipads should be made where the approach and departure path should be clear.
*Helipads should be devoid of dust. “No dust in the helipad because while landing, so much dust gets kicked up. Sometimes, we are not even able to see if there is any small bird coming,” he said.