Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a potential accident in the making.
Birds may be a fraction of a plane's size but they still carry the potential to wreak havoc on flights and the potential for an accident is on the rise, according to an NBC investigation.
This year, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway International airports reported 103 bird strikes as of June, compared to 331 between the two airports for all of 2012. Across the U.S., pilots reported an average of 6,000 aircraft collisions with birds and other wildlife.
Damage to aircrafts varies depending on the size and number of birds and often isn't severe, with the bulk of the damage resulting in dents and dings to the body. But when a plane suffers a bird strike to the windshield, or engine, things get bad, according to a study by Bird-X Inc, a pest control company.
"Striking just one bird can dent a plane’s wings and nose, break the wind shield and destroy vital engine parts, leading to loss of power and control. Small planes often crash after hitting a single bird; collision with a flock may cause disaster for even the largest and most powerful passenger or military aircraft," said the company in a release.
The end of summer and early fall transition period marks one of the riskier times for bird strikes, according to 2008 data from the University of Illinois. The numbers suggest migration season, which has millions of birds flying to warmer climates, could play a role to increased strikes.
Bird strike watchdogs, like Birdstrike Control program, say that airports are too reactive in their stance, rather than being proactive with prevention measures. Canadian airports, on the other hand, have turned to other birds to keep the skies near airports bird-free.
At Pearson International, airport staff members have enlisted falcons, hawks and an eagle to frighten off nearby birds from landing in a plane's turbines, notes the Toronto Star.
Winnipeg's Richardson Airport takes a more technical approach, using air canons on a fire truck to ward off wildlife, like geese from nearby planes, according to Global News.
In 2009, a US Airways jet crash landed in New York's Hudson river after striking a flock of Canadian geese and losing engine power.
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