Thames Estuary Airport potential bird strike details revealed

by Alister POOLE on January 31, 2012

Any new Thames estuary airport would become the most dangerous hub in the UK due to the risks of a plane crashing down to land by a bird strike, it has been warned by aviation experts.

A special report, commissioned by ministers, found that there is risk of “aircraft loss” after risks of being struck by one or several birds ranged from a single plane in 100 years one in 300 years – figures that are higher than those of the other 10 UK airports that were studied.

High risk was calculated despite extensive work to try and make the area see as unattractive as possible for birds, which involved cutting down woodland, shooting them when necessary, draining ponds, and planting artificial grass.

The report added that even with management and mitigation measures of a world-class standard in place, it isn’t considered possible for risk to be reduced to any level similar to that currently experienced at fellow UK airports.

The experts’ view is to add new difficulties to the coalition government’s plans, with a fresh consultation on constructing a new hub in this area expected to be announced in March. The idea has been championed by Boris Johnson - London’s Conservative mayor.

Simon Buck, the British Air Transport Association’s chief executive, said that the risk of bird strike is only one concern there is over the site with another “conflict” with the flight paths for Amsterdam’s six-runway Schiphol airport.

{ 1 comment }

Peter Reardon January 31, 2012 at 11:33 pm

This is a very interesting article which presents obvious cause for concerns. It would be nice to have access to the full report to read the detail of the research elements, risk modelling conducted and hazard mitigators used in the modelling. However, this report appears to continue to highlight an apparent and basic disconnect in the thinking of transport safety authorities who believe that focusing the hazard management on the airport operator alone will prevent/reduce birdstrike occurrences on that airport.

While every effort to reduce birdstrikes on airports is to be applauded and installing bird hazard mitigation systems on the airport itself (in whatever form that may be) would be a help in reducing birdstrike occurrences at that airport, it will not provide any safety value whatsoever beyond the airport or at any other airport. In fact most airport hazard reduction mitigators are virtually useless beyond the airport boundary.

In my opinion, transport authorities and aircraft/airline operators would be far better served by installing ‘on-board’ birdstrike reduction systems as now used by many Australasian Airlines to improve self-protection for their passenger carrying aircraft, and many other types, in all airspace and all airports. Systems that pulse the aircraft’s existing landing lights are proving very effective in reducing such birdstrike occurrences.

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