Birds were the cause of the US Airways plane crash landing in Hudson River


US Airways bird strike lands on Hudson River

Photo of US Airways successful emergency landing on Hudson River taken by Janis Krum with a cell phone.

Photo of US Airways successful emergency landing on Hudson River taken by Janis Krum with a cell phone.

As the news feed reads that birds were the cause of the emergency landing of a US Airways flight taking off from New York’s La Guardia airport on Jan 15, 2009, one wonders how common this sort of accident really is? If it is common, it may lead to raised voices of culling of the bird populations?
According to the CNN report, more than 56000 incidents of birdstrikes have happened since 1998, but there are only 5 large jets that have had serious major accidents since 1975. Luckily, much appointed to the excellent skills of the pilot of the US Airways pilot and heroic evacuation directives by the same pilot, all of the 155 people onboard were unharmed.  It appears as commercial flights are quite safe in this respect, at least for the human passengers, but less so for the colliding birds – or the pets that go in the cargo.
Nate commenting on 10.000 birds blog, suggests the birds of responsible for the strike on today were Canada Geese, and this would make sense. It must be large birds to have severe impact on jets, unless of course the jet runs into a large flock of birds. This informative wiki article, mentions Vultures, ducks, geese, and gulls as the most serious contenders in bird-strikes. These will make serious damage. Modern airplanes are tested against strikes and they can be shut down a broken engine and keep on flying. However, if more that one engine is being hit, an emergency landing may be necessary.

Lima airport- should be safe against bird-strikes

Some years ago in Peru I was involved in an early assessment of air-strike safety at Lima Airport. With a technician from Frankfurt Airport we went around in Lima looking for birds during two days.  It was not only the birds at the airport itself that was important but also within some 10-20 km radius around the airport. In effect we were visiting some great birding sites around Lima. This was one of the first times I visited Ventanilla wetlands. And I also ticked off the some garbage tips, Rimac river and the Rimac and Chillon rivers outlet at sea. It soon became clear that is was Gulls and Black Vultures were the major threats to aircrafts. If you look at the map of Lima, you shall see that Rimac river is very close to the airport. The bridge crossing the Rimac river on the way to the airport is great viewpoint to see accumulated garbage completely devoured by large flocks of Kelp Gulls, Franklin’s Gulls (in season) and menacing Black Vultures.
Luckily once inside the plane you will find that the takeoff always is to the north. Menos mal!
I can assure you that the reason for a northward take off and landing is not only to minimize noise pollution over Lima, but also to minimize the risk of collisions with birds.

Fear of birds in Iquitos. Vultures and airports.

One of the more remarkable sagas regarding birds and airplanes in Peru, has been the incredibly stupid placing of a municipal garbage dump outside Iquitos in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon just next to Iquitos airport. It resulted in huge populations of vultures circling around the airport. Rather than moving the dump, the municipality tried shooting and poisoning the birds, but this only worked until new birds showed up from elsewhere in the jungle. The primitive vulture communications methods in the jungle, beats the speed of internet. Look at the map. Iquitos is completely surrounded by vulture infested jungle. It would never stop, vultures would come and come in never ending streams to where ever there was enough food.

Soon, in spite of the efforts to get rid of the birds, the flight authorities announced that flights to and from Iquitos could only take off or land in the evenings or the extremely early hours of the morning. Flight times became very uncomfortable. I am sure Iquitos lost many tourists due to this fact.

In the end, after years of protesting, the municipality finally gave in and moved the dump. Where?

25 km south of Iquitos, just on the other side of the of the road from the Visitor center of Allpahuaya-MIshana reserve.

WTF were they thinking? Now the dump pollutes the ground water of the reserve and something regarding Iquitos municipality’s garbage management – huele mal – stinks!

The white-sand forest of Allpahuayo-Mishana reserve is home of many species recently described as new to science, including Allpahuayo Antbird, Mishana Tyrannulet, Ancient Antwren and Iquitos Gnatcatcher. The reserve has in little time become one of Peru’s most treasured bird watching destinations. Birding outfitter Kolibri Expeditions run birdwatching tours to Iquitos that include several day visits to the reserve to see the rare species that can be found there.

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