Why birds fly into jet engines

A strange phenomenon but here is an interesting video and article on the subject.

By Dr. S. Allen Counter

While delivering a lecture at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, years ago, I was asked to address a group of students who had recently lost their fathers in a military airplane crash at nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base. Their jet had been brought down because of a “bird strike” – birds flying into the aircraft’s engine. Twenty-four people died.
Click here to view how birds hear.

It was a difficult assignment, but I overcame my emotions and expressed condolences. A student asked, “Why do birds collide with airplanes, and how can we prevent such collisions?”

That is a question that the aviation world has tried to answer for years. Hundreds of deaths occur worldwide each year as a result of bird strikes, with a cost of more than $600 million annually to US aviation alone, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The issue is made even more pressing by the recent crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River following an apparent collision with birds.

In the 1980s, before my trip to Alaska, I undertook a biological study of why birds cannot get out of the way of aircraft. My investigation took me from Logan International Airport to a sea gull nesting area on Monomoy Island.

The field maintenance crew at Logan allowed me, and one of my students, to ride with them down the runways each morning on their brightly colored trucks, with a designated person on the back firing a shotgun to scare away the sea gulls, perched on the runways for warmth.

To my utter dismay, large jets would take off at closer-than-comfortable distances just behind our truck. The field crew acknowledged worrying that the birds would become disoriented and fly right into the plane’s engine.

Like most passengers, I never knew that such a risky exercise existed just outside the plane on which I comfortably sat. To see these birds, including owls and geese, so close during takeoff gave me tremendous discomfort.

Logan staffers captured several sea gulls for my study. Suspecting that the collisions had to do with sound localization – the ability to tell where a sound was coming from – and hearing, I examined the birds’ inner ears and brains for clues.

The findings were remarkable.

By placing electrodes in the section of the brain that responded to sounds, I discovered that the most sensitive region of the birds’ hearing was in the 1 to 3 kilohertz range – which, interestingly, is also the peak acoustic noise output of a modern jet engine.

In other words, the intense jet noise may interfere with a bird’s ability to hear by over stimulating the bird’s inner ear hearing receptors. The brain wave responses also showed diminished hearing capacity in older birds.

To view the source and to read more, click here.

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