The Jan. 15 ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River illustrated the dangers of midair collisions between birds and aircraft. But what led to the “miracle on the Hudson” happens more often than the public realizes. Bird and wildlife strikes cause more than a half-million hours of aircraft down time and cost U.S. civil aviation more than $500 million annually, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the threat to air safety is on the rise with the expansion of many wildlife species that are hazardous to aircraft.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is launching the International Center for Aviation and Wildlife Risk Mitigation to help manage this growing hazard. The new Center, based at Embry-Riddle’s Prescott, Ariz., campus, will bring together top aviation wildlife experts to share and develop new research and management solutions to reduce the dangers and serve as a resource to airports around the world.
The center is an initiative of national wildlife expert Archie Dickey, an associate professor of aviation environmental science in Prescott, who serves as director. Dickey created and has managed the FAA’s web-based wildlife strike database since 1999. The FAA site is a compilation of data about aircraft and wildlife strikes around the country, and data is voluntarily reported by airport officials.
The center is designed to be part of a larger comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. bird strike hazard management system proposed by industry experts and now under review through the Aviation Subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as well as the FAA.
One of the center’s goals is to bring together and leverage broad industry, academic, and government supporters to gain federal and state funding to establish the center as the pre-eminent national facility for wildlife/bird strike data collection, research, and development, similar to FAA-sponsored Centers of Excellence now operating at Embry-Riddle and other universities.
The new center will develop and promote solutions for managing wildlife around airports and training pilots and airport personnel to avoid aircraft collisions with birds and wildlife.