STAKEHOLDERS GATHER TO TACKLE THE MENACE OF BIRD STRIKES IN AVIATION
By Jimoh Babatunde & Daniel Eteghe
A Dana Air MD-83 made an emergency landing April last year after a bird strike at Lagos Airport. The aircraft en route to Abuja lost one engine and returned to Lagos Airport, where it landed safely.
This is one of the over 155 recorded bird strike cases that involved Nigerian airlines between January 2009 and June 2011. There were 70 reported cases in 2009, 53 reported cases in 2010 and 22 reported cases in 2011.
Aviation industry worldwide has been reported to lose $1.6 billion to bird strikes. The situation has led to the airlines incurring huge costs on repairs of their damaged aircraft engines.
It was based on this realisation that a five-day workshop on Wildlife Management was organised by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in Lagos recently to take stock of the debilitating effects of bird strikes to aircraft engines and operations.
Speaking at opening ceremony, the Director-General, NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren said the menace of bird strikes is real.
It is befitting to dedicate a discussion such as this effort to minimize both the occurrence and the associated damage.
Dr. Demuren said a US Airways aircraft lost its twin engine during a bird strike attack at the Hudson River in New York, US, stressing that the aircraft miraculously landed without any catastrophic or fatal accident.
He further stressed that apart from causing a lot of threat to the safety of passengers aboard aircraft, the menace of bird strikes could also result into huge operating cost for the airlines, flight delays, flight cancellations amongst other numerous hazards to the aviation industry.
In the case of the Dana Air incident, the airline had to reduce its daily frequencies on the Lagos-Abuja route from six to five and on the Lagos-Port Harcourt route from two to one from next month onwards.
Demuren said the cost in time and repairs and the inconvenience to travellers is not just the unpleasant end but is also important consideration in insurance coverage.
The damage occasioned by bird strikes and the potential implication for coverage and insurance premiums if our skies and airports are considered particularly prone to bird strikes, need special attention.
Demuren explained that there are several reasons why birds may be around the airport in which case, the propensity for a strike to occur is higher, especially in our environment.
Some of them really revolve around the nature and extensive infrastructure deficit that continues to plague our continent. Airport drainages, vicinity waste management, farm land, among others.
Demuren said as a regulatory authority, the NCAA anxiously looks forward to a significant reduction in these bird strikes.