Date of this Version
Collisions between birds (and other wildlife) and aircraft are known to cause substantial losses to the aviation industry in terms of damage and delays every year. Techniques exist to control bird numbers on airfields and hence to reduce the numbers of wildlife strikes but they are applied at widely different levels from airport to airport. Some of this variation may be due to differing levels of strike risk at the different sites, but much of it is due to the unwillingness or inability of the airports concerned to invest in birdstrike prevention. Part of the reason for this reluctance to invest in airport bird control is a lack of understanding of the true costs involved to the airlines in terms of direct damage to aircraft and in delays and cancellations. Previous estimates of the cost of birdstrikes have concentrated on measurable repair costs and have not been able to assign costs to aircraft delays. This paper uses newly available data from major international airlines to provide the first estimate for the total cost of birdstrikes to the world’s commercial airline fleet. Some of the data are commercially confidential and some of the sources cannot, therefore, be quoted nor the accuracy of the data verified. The estimates also rely on information from a very small number of airlines to produce extrapolations for the world wide costs of damage and delays. Although the data sources are major international carriers, and as representative as possible of the world birdstrike problem as a whole, the results should be interpreted with a suitable level of caution. A tentative estimate of US$1.2 billion in damage and delays to commercial airlines for 1999 has been produced using this calculation. This does not include damage to general aviation aircraft or helicopters. This paper refines that estimation based on a more complete data set for 1999 plus the full data set for 2000. The revised figure of US$ 1.28 billion (range US$ 1.21 – US$ 1.36 billion) per year is also presented as cost per flight and cost per strike to allow other carriers to estimate the costs to their operation. These costs are compared with examples of the costs of bird control programmes from various parts of the world. Clear cases of the ability to invest money in bird control and save a greater sum in reduced birdstrike costs are identified. Reasons for the industry’s failure to invest further to reduce the costs of birdstrikes are examined.