The first powered flight by the Wright Brothers occurred in December 1903, and the wildlife strike problem began shortly thereafter.

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Fatalities and Destroyed Aircraft due to Wildlife Strikes  | 1912 to present

The first powered flight by the Wright Brothers occurred in December 1903, and the wildlife strike problem began shortly thereafter.  On 7 September 1905, the first reported bird strike, as recorded by Orville Wright in his diary, occurred when his aircraft hit a bird (probably a red-winged blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus) as he flew over a cornfield near Dayton, Ohio, USA.  The first reported mammal strike occurred on 25 July 1909 at the start of Louis Bleriot's historic first flight across the English Channel from Les Baraques, France.  During engine warm-up of his Bleriot XI aircraft, a farm dog ran into the propeller. On 3 April 1912 Calbraith Rodgers, the first person to fly across the continental USA, was also the first to die as a result of a wildlife strike when his aircraft struck a gull along the coast of Southern California.  

Since those first wildlife strikes, aircraft designs and performance have changed radically and some wildlife populations and air traffic have increased dramatically.  Today, tens of thousands of wildlife strikes are reported annually for civil and military aircraft, worldwide.  Based on statistics from the USA, where about 14,000 strikes with civil aircraft were reported in 2015, less than 5% of these strikes cause damage to the aircraft (Dolbeer et al. 2016).  However, occasionally strikes can be devastating as demonstrated in recent years by the emergency forced landing of an Airbus 320 with 159 passengers and crew in the Hudson River in January 2009 after Canada geese (Branta canadensis) were ingested in both engines, and the 19-fatality crash of a Dornier 228-200 in Nepal in September 2012 after a black kite (Milvus migrans) was struck on take-off (Thorpe 2012, Addendum 3). 

Data compilation

John Thorpe, who is retired from the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, spent many years compiling and updating a list of human fatalities and destroyed aircraft caused by bird strikes for civil aviation worldwide.  These incidents were published in a series of papers at meetings of Bird Strike Committee Europe and the International Bird Strike Committee (Thorpe 2012, 2015).  Likewise, John Richardson of LGL Limited in Canada, and his colleague Tim West from the U.K., compiled a list of fatalities and destroyed aircraft for military aviation worldwide in a series of publications (Richardson and West 2000). These published lists, when combined with incidents involving terrestrial wildlife (e.g., deer) and more recent bird strikes that we have compiled, indicate that at least 500 people have been killed and over 600 aircraft destroyed because of wildlife strikes worldwide since 1912. It is likely that a number of serious strike events involving wildlife, especially from Asia, Africa, and South America, have yet to be documented.

Purpose of this database

Our objective is to make this published information on fatalities and destroyed aircraft, combined with our supplemental data, publically available in a standardized database.  Problems that are not well defined and understood cannot be properly managed.  We believe the availability of this database will benefit aviation safety in various ways.  First, it will allow the problem of serious wildlife strike incidents to be analyzed objectively by aviation safety specialists, applied wildlife biologists, and others with regard to such factors as types of aircraft and wildlife species involved, phases of flight, time of year and day, and height above ground level. Second, with over 100 years of data, it will allow analyses of temporal and spatial trends in these serious strikes.  Third, it will help educate the general public and news media about the problem of wildlife strikes and aviation.  Finally, it will allow the worldwide aviation community to examine the data in a convenient and standardized format to provide supplemental or corrective information and to add strike events presently not documented. Please help us here: if you know of a missing record, or if you have further information on a particular entry, please email pshaw@avisure.com

At this time (February 2016) we are posting the database for civil aviation only. John Richardson and Tim West are working on an update to their 2000 publication; and when that information becomes available, we will post the military strikes causing fatalities and destroyed aircraft.

 

Download database of this comprehsive list

 

Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the lifetime of work by John Thorpe, John Richardson, and Tim West in providing the foundation of this database.

Phil Shaw, President/Managing Director, Avisure, Burleigh, Queensland Australia. pshaw@avisure.com

Richard Dolbeer, Science Advisor, Airport Wildlife Hazards Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, APHIS, Wildlife Services, 1228 Laguna Drive, Huron, Ohio 44839 USA

 

References

Dolbeer, R. A., J. R. Weller, A. L. Anderson, and M. J. Beiger. 2016. Wildlife strikes to civil aircraft in the United States, 1990-2015. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Airport Safety and Standards, Serial Report No. 22, Washington, DC., USA. 103 pages. (https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/media/Wildlife-Strike-Report-1990-2015.pdf). 

Richardson, W. J., and T. West. 2000. Serious birdstrike accidents to military aircraft: updated list and summary. Pages 67–98 in Proceedings of 25th International Bird Strike Committee Meeting. Amsterdam, Netherlands. (http://www.int-birdstrike.org).

Thorpe, J. 2012.  100 years of fatalities and destroyed civil aircraft due to bird strikes + Addenda 1-3.  Proceedings of the 30th International Bird Strike Committee Meeting. Stavanger, Norway. (http://www.int-birdstrike.org).

Thorpe, J. 2015.  Conflict of Wings: Birds Versus Aircraft. In Problematic Wildlife – a Cross Disciplinary Approach. Angelici, F. (Ed). Springer Dec 2015.