Is It Safe For a Plane to Fly into a Flock of Birds?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Planes are a modern miracle—they allow human beings to fly through the skies, an ability that was previously reserved for birds. Sometimes, these two worlds collide mid-air, and planes fly straight into a bird, or even a flock of birds.

The results can look really disastrous, especially for the birds. The good news is that bird strikes don’t typically pose any risk to airplanes or passengers. The really good news is that they’re unlikely to bring down a plane.

“Aircraft are designed and built to withstand bird strikes, and pilots undergo rigorous training to enable them to deal with eventualities like a bird strike,” BALPA flight safety specialist, Stephen Landells, told The Telegraph.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Even if a bird gets sucked into the airplane’s engine, the plane can usually land just fine. “Losing one engine is not going to cause an aircraft to crash because they are designed to fly with one engine down,” Stephen explained.

That doesn’t mean fliers are completely in the clear, however. While a single bird rarely poses any danger to a plane, Stephen added that “multiple bird strikes – or hitting large birds such as Canada geese – can and have caused serious accidents.” Captain Sully’s landing of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River in 2009 is perhaps the most famous example of this.

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This is quite rare, though.

There were 160,894 bird strikes between 1990 and 2015 in the U.S. Only 40 of those strikes resulted in an accident.

Unfortunately, these incidents are often fatal for the birds (though not always). They can die on impact if they run into a plane, and they usually disintegrate if they get sucked into an engine. The number of wildlife strikes has also increased drastically over the years, as flying gets more popular.

Sadly, there’s not much that planes can do to avoid birds in the sky.