Date of this Version
The National Wildlife Strike Database for Civil Aviation in the USA became operational in 1995 with the initiation of data entry of all strikes beginning in 1990. Since 1995, approximately 46,600 reported strikes from 1990-2002 involving civil aircraft in the USA or for USA carriers in foreign countries have been entered into the database. About 97% of the reported strikes have involved birds and 3% have been with mammals or reptiles. Over 2,000 reported strikes have indicated substantial damage to the aircraft. The database has proven to be an extremely useful source of objective information on the extent and nature of wildlife strikes for individual airports and for researchers and engineers conducting national studies. Selected records and fields of the database are now available online at http://wildlife-mitigation.tc.faa.gov for use by airport personnel, engine manufacturers, FAA officials and others. Although the database is already a powerful research and management tool, improvements are needed in the reporting procedures to make the database even more useful. First, we estimate that up to 80% of strikes with civil aircraft were not reported under the current voluntary reporting system. Furthermore, only 19,324 (43%) of the 45,340 reported bird strikes identified the bird to species group (e.g., gull or hawk) and only 9,350 (48%) of these 19,324 reports further identified the bird to species level (e.g., ring-billed gull [Larus delewarensis]). Thus, only 19% of the bird strike reports identified the bird to species. Identification of species struck is critical for prioritizing bird management activities at airports and for engineering/airworthiness studies of aircraft and engine components. To improve species identification, the Feather Laboratory at the Smithsonian Institution, through an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, now provides free identification of bird strike remains for civil aircraft in the USA (instructions can be found at the above website). Improvements are also needed in the reporting of other critical strike variables. For example, height above ground level at the time of the strike was not provided in 13,888 (31%) of the 45,340 bird strikes. During the past 8 years, the National Wildlife Strike Database for Civil Aviation in the USA has provided a scientific foundation for the various efforts underway to reduce the problem of bird and other wildlife strikes with aircraft. Improvements in reporting as outlined above will make the database even more powerful and useful in the years ahead.