The Context for Bird Strike Reporting
Whilst Bird Strike Reporting is a reactive response to the potential hazard, there is no alternative widely-available means of monitoring potentially hazardous bird activity and this has been recognised by Regulatory action to improve the extent of reporting. However, whilst the recording of bird strikes is a very important part of understanding both actual and relative risks, it has to be recognised that:
- Very few bird strikes out of the total reported are hazardous to continued safe flight
- Only a relatively small minority of bird strikes, especially in jurisdictions with a healthy reporting culture, cause damage, although the overall cost of repairing bird strike damage is high and damage to individual aircraft or their engines can be very expensive to repair.
- The relationship between the risk of any birdstrike and the risk of one which is hazardous to continued safe flight is unclear and there is no evidence to suggest that it is linear so that hazard severity based upon all-species strike rates, even if moderated by aircraft movements, is unhelpful.
The Requirement to Report Bird Strikes
By the provisions in ICAO Annex 14, Aerodrome Design and Operations, Volume I, bird strikes are required to be reported at national (member State) level. Section 9.4.2 of the same Annex requires that “Bird strike reports shall be collected and forwarded to ICAO for inclusion in the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS) database”. To facilitate this obligation, States are expected to take appropriate action to collect data from aircraft and airport operators, although the effectiveness of this process varies very widely and geographical bias in the overall data coverage results.
According to IR-OPS CAT.GEN.MPA.105 Responsibilities of the commander, paragraph (d), Bird hazards and strikes:
"(1) Whenever a potential bird hazard is observed, the commander shall inform the air traffic service (ATS) unit as soon as flight crew workload allows."
"(2) Whenever an aircraft for which the commander is responsible suffers a bird strike that results in significant damage to the aircraft or the loss or malfunction of any essential service, the commander shall submit a written bird strike report after landing to the competent authority."
According to EU-OPS 1.420 subpart (d) section 3. recommendations:
“(i) A commander shall immediately inform the local air traffic service unit whenever a potential bird hazard is observed.”, and
“(ii) If he is aware that a bird strike has occurred, a commander shall submit a written bird strike report after landing to the Authority whenever an aircraft for which he is responsible suffers a bird strike that results in significant damage to the aircraft or the loss or malfunction of any essential service. If the bird strike is discovered when the commander is not available, the operator is responsible for submitting the report.”
Since roughly 90% of all strikes with a known location occur on or in the vicinity of an airport, the issue impacts not only on aircraft operators but also on the operational safety of airports. The collection of data on bird strikes is aimed at facilitating the detection of locations where there is a high probability of a significant bird strike hazard and can help to define the nature of the problem. Data on bird strikes (and other wild life strikes) is essential for bird and wildlife management on and around airports. This information is also useful to aircraft fuselage and engine manufacturers, assisting them in the design of bird strike resistant airframe structures and engines. That is why bird strike reports of sufficient quality collected, analysed and finally submitted to ICAO by States are of great value at national, regional and global level.
Care must be exercised while interpreting the data collected. For example, an airport with an increasing rate of bird strikes is not necessarily becoming a more risky location. The total number of strikes at an airport, taken in isolation, is not a good indicator of risk; examination of the data by species struck and the distinguishing of multiple from single strikes is critical. If an increase in recorded strikes is attributable to an increase in incidents caused by encounters with single small birds, whereas the number of strikes involving large bird species and/or flocks of birds is falling, then this may well be indicative of both better bird control and better reporting of strikes.
Actual bird strikes may not provide the whole picture: the recording via routine safety reports of occurrences of potentially hazardous bird activity or near miss events can also be very useful, even though this is not included in the formal requirements for bird strike reporting.
It may also be important to examine the relationship between aircraft movements and recorded bird strikes. This can be done by both Airport Operators and Aircraft Operators.
What to Report
One of the reasons why ICAO requires that all bird strikes are reported, whether or not they cause damage to the aircraft and whatever bird/wildlife species was involved, is that experience of the analysis of bird remains collected after strikes by experts has shown that the species reported as involved are frequently incorrect.
Incidents where a bird strike was narrowly avoided, perhaps by flight crew being forced to take evasive action to keep away from birds, or of observed significant bird activity which might have constituted a direct hazard in slightly different circumstances, should be reported on a standard safety reporting form.
The information that is commonly sought in a bird strike report includes:
- General information (flight number or registration, aircraft and engine type)
- Location and time, (geographic location or airport/runway used, time, IAS and height (AGL) during the occurrence, light conditions - day , night, twilight)
- Flight parameters - Altitude or height agl; IAS
- Phase of flight (take-off roll, initial climb, climb, cruise, descent, approach, landing roll)
- Part(s) of aircraft struck and (if) damaged (engine number, radome, windshield, landing gear, fuselage, tail, etc)
- Effects on flight (rejected take off, emergency/precautionary landing, engine(s) shut down and other consequent effects)
- Relevant meteorological conditions (visibility, cloud cover, precipitation)
- Species information (exact species or species group if known)
- Number of birds seen and number struck
- Size of birds - small, medium and large if not identified to species or species group)
- Prior warning of bird activity by RTF/ATIS/NOTAM/BIRDTAM
- Any other relevant information and remarks regarding the occurrence
Bird strike report forms used by States (or accepted as operator substitutes for the State Form) vary and there is not always provision for the bird species involved to be recorded if known or even described as seen. Also, some forms are too detailed and overly complex to complete with lots of descriptive text. As a general rule, report forms should be relatively short and their completion should be self explanatory.
States which report data in a significantly different format from that required by IBIS (ICAO Birds Strike Information System) are urged by ICAO to comply with the format of the IBIS reporting form, especially when key data fields are omitted.
Examples of bird strike reporting forms can be found at:
- ICAO ANNEX 14, (Aerodromes)
- ICAO Birds Strike Information System (IBIS) Data base and Manual on the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS), (Doc 9332)