Bird Strike on Final Approach: Guidance for Flight Crews

Editor's Note: This article discusses the issues and thought processes associated with a bird strike on final approach. Crews should follow company approved emergency procedures (e.g. Company Operating Manual) and manufacturers guidance regarding the conduct of the flight, and management of aircraft systems, when such an event occurs.

Description

This article provides specific guidance regarding the response to bird strike while on final approach.

In the context of this article "final approach" is defined as that period of flight following the final configuration necessary for landing.

Scenario 1

An aircraft is hit by birds while on final approach to land - should the pilot continue the approach or initiate a go around/missed approach?

Having encountered birds, the question to be answered is "what is the damage to the aircraft and what effect will this have on the safe conduct of the flight?".

The full extent of any damage, to the engines and/or the control surfaces and landing gear, may not be apparent until applying power, configuring, or manoeuvring the aircraft. It might therefore be the case that, if a go-around is initiated, the pilots rapidly finds themselves in a situation where the runway is disappearing beneath them but the aircraft cannot safely fly a missed approach.

Therefore, in the above scenario, it is advisable to continue the approach and land.

Scenario 2

A pilot sees a flock of birds ahead of him on final approach - should he continue the approach or initiate a go-around/missed approach?

Having seen the birds, the question to be answered is "if a go-around is initiated, how likely is it that the aircraft will avoid a bird strike?".

There are two matters to consider. Firstly, the behaviour of birds towards an aircraft in flight is highly unpredictable and varies greatly by species, some waterfowl species typically dive but such behaviour is not consistent and the birds may fly upwards, potentially into the path of the aircraft initiating a go-around. Secondly, the greater the engine thrust, the greater the damage caused by ingesting birds - it is probable that less damage will be caused if the birds are hit while the engines are at low speed or idle.

Therefore, in the scenario described above, unless a go-around can be achieved with a reasonable degree of confidence that the aircraft will not hit birds, it is less hazardous to continue the approach to land.

Accidents and Incidents

Here are some examples of bird strike events, not necessarily on final approach, that have caused significant airframe or engine damage:

Significant Airframe Damage

Engine Damage

Related Articles

Further Reading

Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses - France

UK CAA

Other

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