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TN: Not so safe: 2 bird hits a month at Chennai airport

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Not so safe: 2 bird hits a month at Chennai airport


Bird strikes don't cause as many air accidents as they used to till a couple of decades ago, thanks to better resilience and back-up mechanisms of aircraft, but they continue to be a risk. And Chennai has had at least two bird hits every month last year. An RTI query by TOI has found that the number of bird hits at Chennai airport rose from 24 in 2010 to 32 in 2013, but dipped to 22 in 2014. This February, there have been five such incidents at the airport. According to an airline official, the dip in numbers - from 32 in 2013 to 22 in 2014 - could be attributed to underreporting than to preventive measures. That is, though bird hits get reported at the airport, at times the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) is not intimated.



DGCA said 162 cases of bird strikes were recorded at Chennai airport in the last five years. The airport ranked fifth in the number of hits across the country since 2010.Throughout India, 71 airports reported 2,946 bird hits from 2010 to 2014. There has been a yearly increase in the number of cases from 367 in 2010 to 669 in 2014.



Last year, Delhi airport recorded the maximum number of bird hits, 146. It was followed by Mumbai (69), Ahmedabad (61), Kolkata (55), Hyderabad (34), Kochi (24), Chennai (22) and Bengaluru (18).



Bird strikes can damage the aircraft's engine, wing flaps and fuselage thus forcing the airlines to ground the plane and carry out expensive repairs. The financial loss reported by domestic airlines due to bird hits and animal hits has been increasing over the past few years - Rs 7.5 crore in 2010, Rs 12.27 crore in 2013 and Rs 25.72 crore in 2014. Poor disposal of garbage, to which birds and their prey are attracted, in areas surrounding airports is the primary reason. The increase in air traffic has also contributed to the frequency of hits.



Director of Institute of Bird Studies, Rishi Valley, V Shantaram, said illegal slaughter houses, garbage dumps in the vicinity of airports cause bird hits during take-off and landing. "Birds commonly involved in strikes have adapted to living around concrete structures including airports," he said.



According to observers, birds that fly in dense flocks -like gulls, waterfowl, vultures and egrets -are commonly involved in bird hits. K V Sudhakar of Madras Naturalists' Society said bird hits increase during winter because of mass migration of birds.



"Some birds are attracted to water pools formed on runways during monsoon. Tall grass on airport grounds serves as a breeding ground for mice, snakes and frogs that attract birds. Pigeon population across the country has also increased in the last few years, mainly because of the mushrooming high-rise buildings," he said.



A senior DGCA official said they have constituted an airfield environment management committee to ensure that no illegal slaughter house or garbage dump exists near airports. "It is constituted at every airport to identify sources of stray animals or bird attraction at the airport and take necessary steps to prevent bird strike," said an official.



According to The Aircraft Rule, 1937 (rule 91) disposal of garbage in the open within 10km of the airport is a cognizable offence attracting a fine of Rs 1 lakh or three month imprisonment or both.


Read More: Not so safe: 2 bird hits a month at Chennai airport - The Times of India

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