2009-05-13 / Features

Schumer Bill Makes Reporting Bird Strikes Mandatory

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Schumer's action has been building since the "Miracle on the Hudson" event January 15. Schumer's action has been building since the "Miracle on the Hudson" event January 15. Citing a "startling" new report revealing that only 20 percent of bird strikes at New York airports are reported, United States Senator Charles Schumer announced he will introduce legislation requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make reporting bird strike data mandatory.

The impetus for Schumer's action has been building since the "Miracle on the Hudson" event January 15 when a bird strike at Kennedy Airport forced a U.S. Airway's flight piloted by Chesley Sullenberger to land in the Hudson River. Sullenberger's actions saved the lives of all 155 people on board.

Schumer said the miraculous landing had "shed necessary light on a safety crisis that has grown significantly over the last decade".

"Bird strikes at New York airports and airports across the country have risen unabated by an FAA that repeatedly swept safety issues like this under the rug and are now unacceptably high. The time for the FAA to act is now," Schumer declared.

According to FAA data released for the first time on May 1, Schumer said, airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major U.S. airports since 2000. New York's own Kennedy Airport is leading the pack with the most reported incidents—34 collisions resulting in serious damage to airplanes.

Since 1990, Schumer added, the FAA has recorded nearly 90,000 wildlife strike incidents. Since 2000 alone, he said, pilots have reported striking more than 60,000 birds nationwide, resulting in five deaths and 93 injuries. The cost to repair the most seriously damaged planes was estimated at more than $267 million, "a staggering sum for a problem that could be under control", Schumer said.

Schumer's legislation would require the operator of a civil aircraft or a public aircraft to notify the nearest FAA field office immediately if the aircraft collided with one or more birds or other wildlife. Aircraft maintenance personnel would have to report damage to the aircraft resulting from such a collision.

Schumer said wildlife experts are in agreement that the problem is bound to get worse because birds are finding food near cities and airports rather than migrating, which puts them directly in the path of airplanes at JFK. He said the airport, the sixth busiest in the country, has had an especially difficult time with wildlife due to its location near wetlands that are a breeding ground for birds such as geese.

"The shocking bird strike data that has been released must be a wake-up call for the FAA," Schumer said. "It's time for the FAA to do the right thing and inform the public about these serious safety issues.

"This data shows that bird strikes in New York and across the country have been on the rise for years with safety issues constantly being swept under the rug. My bill will go a long way in protecting the public from costly repairs and dangerous situations."

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