The FAA requires airport sponsors to maintain a safe operating environment, which includes conducting Wildlife Hazard Assessments (WHA) and preparing Wildlife Hazard Management Plans (WHMP), when there has been a significant wildlife strike. The Wildlife Hazard Management Plan identifies the specific actions the airport will take to mitigate the risk of wildlife strikes on or near the airport. The FAA’s wildlife hazard management program has been in place for more than 50 years and focuses on mitigating wildlife hazards through habitat modification, harassment technology and research.
FAA Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Efforts
The FAA addresses wildlife hazards with aircraft through regulatory guidance, data collection, research, partnerships and outreach. The FAA has a number of initiatives underway, including:
Wildlife Strike Awareness Posters and Outreach
Toencourage and increase wildlife strike reporting in the general aviation (GA) community, the FAA’s Office of Airports began distributing “Report Wildlife Strikes” awareness posters several years ago. As a result of this outreach effort, the FAA has printed and distributed more than 30,000 posters. The FAA has sent posters to general aviation airports, aviation schools, other organizations and associations and Part 139 certificated airports. In addition, FAA provides funding for education and outreach to the GA community through participation in workshops nationwide. According to new data on the number of strikes reported at GA airports, the outreach and posters have been successful. Over 2,500 of the strike posters were sent to the aviation community in 2019. Posters are available upon request at https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/.
Wildlife Hazards at General Aviation Airports
The Office of Airports encourages GA airports to conduct WHAs or Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) to determine what, if any, wildlife mitigation is needed. The number of GA airports that are conducting WHAs or WHSVs each year has increased significantly. The FAA will support GA airports by making Airport Improvement Program grants available to conduct an assessment and to implement eligible wildlife hazard mitigation techniques that are recommended in response to the Assessments or Site Visits.
Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Reports
The FAA assisted with the development of two recent Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) reports to aid airports with the mitigation of wildlife hazards. The reports (ACRP Synthesis 92: Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices and ACRP Research Report 174 Guidebook and Primer) were published in 2018. Other recent reports published were ACRP Report 122 Innovative Airport Responses to Threatened / Endangered Species (2015), ACRP Report 125 Balancing Airport Stormwater and Bird Hazard Management (2015) and ACRP Report 145 Applying an SMS Approach to Wildlife Hazard Management (2015). They are available from the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (TRB) at http://www.trb.org/Publications/Publications.aspx. The Synthesis 52 report Habitat Management to Deter Wildlife at Airports (2014), ACRP Synthesis 39 report Airport Wildlife Population Management (2013) and ACRP Legal Research Digest 20 Airport Responsibility for Wildlife Management (2013) are also available at the TRB website. These reports provide further guidance to augment two earlier ACRP reports, Bird Harassment, Repellent, and Deterrent Techniques for Use on and Near Airports (2011) and Guidebook for Addressing Aircraft/Wildlife Hazards at General Aviation Airports (2010). The reports are available at https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/.
National Wildlife Strike Database
On April 24, 2009, the FAA made its entire bird strike database available to the public. The emergency forced landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009 after Canada geese were ingested in both engines increased public interest and the aviation industry’s awareness of wildlife hazards to aviation. Strike reporting jumped its largest margin (25 percent) between 2008 (7,602) and 2009 (9,474) and has continued increasing to date. Overall, strike reporting has increased from 1,850 in 1990 to an average of more than 15,000 / year for the last 5 years 2015–2019 (17,228 in 2019). The steady increase in reported strikes is contrasted by a gradual decrease in damaging strikes (<5 percent of reported strikes are damaging). On average, 47 strikes are reported daily. In 2019, birds were involved in 94.0 percent of the reported strikes, bats in 3.2 percent, terrestrial mammals in 2.3 percent and reptiles in 0.5 percent. For 1990–2019, 231,320 strikes were reported (227,045 in US and 4,275 strikes by U.S.-registered aircraft in foreign countries). The number of US airports with strikes reported increased from 335 in 1990 to a record high of 753 in 2019. The 753 airports with strikes reported were comprised of 420 airports certificated for passenger service under Part 139 and 333 GA airports. From 1990–2019, U.S. airports reported 2,091 strikes.
The FAA posted the latest version of the FAA’s Wildlife Strike Reporting Database on Aug. 7, 2019. Deployment of this new software presents a streamlined system that has enhanced our ability to collect and process the submitted wildlife strike data. The improvements in new system have resulted in significantly shorter turn-around times from reporting to publishing searchable data. The new database also allows additional search options for users to conduct more customized searches.
The 1990-2018 Annual Strike Report was issued on July 31, 2019. The annual strike reports through 2018 are available athttps://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/. The 1990-2019 report will be in late 2020 or early 2021.
Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Wildlife Hazard Management Plans
The FAA has successfully encouraged all Part 139 airports to conduct WHAs followed up with a WHMP. To date, all Part 139 certificated airports have completed or initiated a WHA.
FAA Advisory Circulars and CertAlerts
Advisory Circular 150/ 5200- 38–Protocol for the Conduct and Review of Wildlife Hazard Site Visits, Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Wildlife Hazard Management Plans was published in August, 2018. This is a new AC that defines the minimum acceptable standards for the conduct and preparation of site visits, assessments and plans. AC 150/5200-38also clarifies the NEPA process for projects included in an airport’s WHMP. The FAA Wildlife Biologists have conducted several training sessions and presented at conferences to discuss AC 150/5200-38 and how it will affect Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Wildlife Hazard Management Plans going forward. A webinar for airport sponsors, consultants and industry groups was offered in August 2020 as the first webinar in a series titled: The Strike Zone by the Bird Strike Committee USA to provide more information on AC 150/5200-38 and the recently published Advisory Circular 150/5200-33C – Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or Near Airports.
Advisory Circular 150/5200-36B–Qualifications for Wildlife Biologist Conducting Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Training Curriculums for Airport Personnel Involved in Controlling Wildlife Hazards on Airports was published in January, 2019. This AC is a revision of AC 150/5200-36A. The items that were revised include the addition of an option for biologists to meet the criteria for being considered a Qualified Airport Wildlife Biologist. Other revisions include mostly the addition of some clarifying language and updates to resource materials.
Advisory Circular 150/5200-33C – Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or Near Airports was published in February, 2020. This AC is a revision of AC 150/5200-33B. The revised AC includes a consolidation and reorganization of discussions on land uses of concern, as well as updated procedures for evaluation and mitigation of potential hazards. Based on recent research activities, the AC provides updated and expanded information on agricultural and aquaculture activities, water management facilities, procedural guidance for habitats for state and federally listed species on airports. A new section addresses off-airport hazardous wildlife attractants to assist airport managers. The AC also clarifies language regarding the applicability of AC requirements.
The ACs can be found on the website https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/.
Level of Reporting and Mandatory Reporting
The FAA contracted Dr. Richard Dolbeer, a wildlife hazard mitigation expert, to conduct two comprehensive five-year analyses for the FAA to document strike reporting trends and gap analyses. The primary focus of the analyses was to examine strike reporting between the five-year periods 2009-2013 and 2004-2008 in order to determine if voluntary strike reporting has increased and to identify areas of reporting where improvements could be targeted.
The report published in July 2015 (for the 2009-2013 data) showed that the level of reporting has increased at both certificated and General Aviation airports. The increased reporting of strikes is due, in part, to professionally-run wildlife hazard programs. These efforts are likely responsible for the concurrent decline in reported strikes with damage within the airport environment (<500 feet above ground level) in spite of continued increases in populations of many large bird species. The studies have verified the success of FAA outreach efforts. There has been a significant increase in multiple strike reports generated for single strike events as well as a decrease in average bird size involved in strikes complemented by an increase in positive bird identifications (60 percent) from 2013–2018.
Although the current level of reporting is statistically valid and sufficient to negate the need for a requirement, the FAA mandated strike reporting for ATC personnel (ATO Order JO 7210.632: January 30, 2012). Furthermore, the quality of the strike data is sufficient to meet all expectations throughout the aviation industry.
The FAA has adequate data to:
- Determine hazardous species
- Track national trends in wildlife strikes
- Provide scientific foundation for wildlife mitigation guidance and policies
Airports have enough data to:
- Identify & mitigate hazardous species, strike dynamics and wildlife attractants
- Evaluate effectiveness of wildlife management program
Industry has sufficient data to:
- Evaluate effectiveness of aircraft components
The FAA is continually updating the general resource information on the website, including new policies, guidance, training opportunities and ongoing wildlife hazard mitigation research. The layout of the website: https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/ has been redesigned to make it more user-friendly. More resources have been added to the site and all links to resources have been updated. The National Wildlife Strike Database is accessible through the FAA wildlife website.
Online Strike Reporting
Online strike reporting got easier with the release of the mobile application software. Now, anyone who needs to report a wildlife strike can do so via the new web site or their mobile devices using the wireless link http://www.faa.gov/mobile. The FAA also placed a Quick Response (QR) code scanner on the bottom of all the “Report Wildlife Strikes” posters for smart phone users who have the QR application.
Continuing Wildlife Hazard Efforts
Avian or Bird Radar Technology
Since 2006, the FAA has worked closely with academia, airport authorities and other federal agencies to assess the performance capabilities of commercially available avian radar systems. The FAA issued Advisory Circular 150/5220-25, Airport Avian Radar Systems in 2010 that provides performance standards that airports can use to competitively procure bird radars. As technological advancements continue to improve avian radar systems, the FAA is working to keep existing avian radar standards and guidance up to date. The FAA is currently developing an avian radar concept of operations (CONOPS) manual to assist with the operation of avian radars in the field.
FAA-Smithsonian Interagency Agreement
The Smithsonian identifies the bird species from remains after a strike. Bird identification helps airfield personnel implement habitat management programs. Identification also provides information so aircraft manufacturers can better design engines and aircraft to withstand the impact of likely bird collisions. The FAA provides financial support to the Smithsonian to identify bird remains from civil aviation bird strikes as a free-of-charge service to any U.S. registered aircraft, regardless of where the strike occurred and foreign carriers if the strike occurred at a U.S. airport.
Research and Development
The FAA Airports Division works closely with the FAA Technical Center in order to plan and conducts research and development projects in order to decrease the potential of wildlife strikes at airports. The FAA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established a Memorandum of Understanding together in 2005 and continue to collaborate on these research projects to make airports safer by reducing the risks of aircraft-wildlife collisions. The FAA has invested approximately $27 million on wildlife hazard research projects from 2009-2019. In addition, the FAA has invested over $350 million during 2009-2019 on wildlife hazard management projects that qualify for Airport Improvement Program grants.
Recent research has focused on:
- Minimizing bird strikes through onboard lighting systems
- Investigating the effects of landscape structure on the adverse effect bird strike rates at civil airports
- Efficacy of avian radar systems for tracking birds on airfields
- Habitat use, movements and foraging strategies of hazardous wildlife on and near airports with an emphasis on Bald eagle use of airport environments
- Evaluation of translocation as a management tool American kestrels and red-tailed hawks
- Evaluation of unmanned Aerial Systems as Avian Hazing Tools
- Developing risk assessments associated with wildlife-aircraft collisions relative to management efforts at airports
- Estimating strike risk at airports
FAA Partnerships and Outreach
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
ICAO is the international organization that provides the standardized framework for international air navigation. The FAA partnered with ICAO and several representatives from member states on the ADOP/1 Wildlife Hazard Management Expert Group (WHMEG) that rewrote ICAO’s Airport Services Manual Part 3 Wildlife Control and Reduction (Doc 9137). The WHMEG was initiated in May 2017 to complete job card ADOP.015 “Reduce bird/Wildlife strike hazards by applying new methodologies and technologies” and published the final document in August 2020.
Multi-Agency Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
The MOA has existed for many years, and provides the framework for several federal agencies to collaborate on ways to reduce wildlife threats to aviation. The agencies include the FAA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force. An updated MOA is being coordinated with the existing signatories and two new signatories have been added to the updated version: the National Association of State Aviation Officials and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The official signing of the updated MOA is expected in 2021.
Bird Strike Committee USA
The FAA co-sponsors the Bird Strike Committee-USA as part of its continued public outreach and education effort to increase awareness within the aviation community about wildlife hazards. The FAA and BSC-USA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2013. Canada hosted the 2019 North American Bird Strike Conference, a joint conference between the Bird Strike Committee-USA and Canada. The conference took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Aug. 12-16, 2019. Because of the public health emergency, the 2020 Bird Strike Conference was postponed until August 2021. Instead of the 2020 conference, airport sponsors, consultants and industry groups participated in the first in a series titled: The Strike Zone by the Bird Strike Committee USA. The FAA wildlife biologists provided information on AC 150/5200-38 and the recently published Advisory Circular 150/5200-33C – Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or Near Airports.
National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO)
The FAA works closely with NASAO on wildlife issues and education for thousands of non-certificated airports across the country. The FAA has partnered with NASAO on its Wildlife Committee. The FAA signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding with NASAO and the United States Department of Agriculture on September 20, 2013. The goal of this Memorandum of Understanding is to increase strike reporting and awareness at state- regulated airports. The FAA and NASAO continue to work together to provide outreach and guidance to non-certificated airports.