How Often Do Airplanes Hit Deer?
Stats behind wildlife strikes may surprise you
When we think about birds hitting airplanes or getting sucked into the engines and forcing planes to land or even crash, many of us are reminded of the unlikely story of US Airways Flight 1549 on January 15, 2009, when a flock of geese was struck by the aircraft and caused immediate engine failure, forcing pilot Chelsey Sullenberg to safely navigate the plane to glide and land on top of the Hudson River. But other than the outstanding heroics of the pilots of that particular flight, the situation itself of planes crashing due to wildlife strikes is much more common than you may think.
What is a wildlife strike?
A wildlife strike, typically referred to as a bird strike when involving a bird, is a collision between an animal and an aircraft, resulting in the death of the animal and sometimes major damage and even potentially causing the plane to run afoul.
–With a bird strike, the bird usually gets sucked into the engine turbine. or smashes through the windshield, which often results in engine failure and on the rare occasions, fatal crashes.
–Wildlife strikes with other species happen instead on the runway, upon taking off and landing the aircraft.
Birds are not the only animals in danger of plane strikes
In fact, according to the FAA Wildlife strike database (1990-2014), in just the past decade alone there have been a total of 85,989 wildlife strikes across the United States, and that is just the recorded ones! But did you know that it’s not just birds that are hit by planes, and that some of the animals known to have been hit by planes also include raccoons, skunks, alligators, and even white tail deer? Believe it or not, deer are actually the second most common animal to be victim to wildlife strikes, second only to seagulls. !
Wildlife Strikes: by the numbers
*the following reflect the number of planes run afoul due to wildlife strikes of these species, according to the FAA Wildlife strike database (1990-2014).
• Seagulls= 916
• White-tail deer= 671
• Canada goose= 659
• Turkey vulture= 292
• Red-tail hawk= 288
Since geese and eagles are relatively large, they can cause a substantial amount of damage to a plane upon collision; here are the average repair costs for the plane after hitting the 5 animal species listed above:
While fatalities related to wildlife strikes are a very rare occurrence, such tragedies have happened; the FAA reports that 25 people have been killed as a result of plane crashes due to wildlife strikes. Additionally, the number of birds killed every year from planes and other crash related incidents (eg., cars, trains, telephone poles, buildings) is a contributing factor to the overall decrease in avian population worldwide.
What’s being done to help prevent wildlife strikes
• Structures and procedures designed by airports to deter and prevent animals from gaining access to the runway area, like walls, fences, ponds, etc.
• Use of special lighting and pulsing sensors to scare animals away from the planes
• Some planes equipped with bird radar to detect birds before they become too close