Airlines record 93 bird strikes, lose over N20 billion to menace annually

Nigerian airlines are in financial dire straits. Their predicaments are mounting and further exacerbated by the high recurrence of bird strikes.

bird strikes are one of the challenges facing airlines, especially during the rainy seasons. Although, the amount of money spent by airlines to repair their airplanes as a result of bird strikes is unknown experts put the figure at over N20 billion annually.

A bird strike—sometimes called bird strike, bird ingestion, birds hit, or bird aircraft strike hazard —is a collision between an airborne animal and a moving vehicle, usually an aircraft. The term is also used for bird deaths resulting from collisions with structures such as power lines, towers, and wind turbines.

No fewer than 93 bird strike incidents have occurred across Nigerian airports in the first half of 2022.

Out of the number, 54 such bird strike incidents happened at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos alone.

Speaking at the workshop organised by the Search and Rescue Mission of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) on Wednesday in Lagos, Mr. Azike Edozie, Head Bird/Wildlife Hazard Control, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), decried the high incidents arising from bird strike incidents in the industry.

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Edozie however said that the responsibility of keeping the airspace safe from bird incidents lay with every stakeholder in the industry, including airline operators, security agencies, and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

He expressed hope that the respective agencies would find a lasting solution to the menace soon, decrying that airlines were losing millions of dollars to the incident annually.

He said: ”My record shows that we have had at least 93 bird strike incidents in all our airports between January this year to June. And out of this number, 54 of it happened in Lagos Airport alone, which represents about 70 percent of the total occurrences.

”We all have to proffer a solution to this menace and I do hope we have a lasting solution to it because everyone, especially the airlines is losing money.”

Also, Mr. Adetunji Adetutu, Head of Unit, Bird Control, FAAN, Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos in his presentation pointed out that no airline was immune from the incident of bird strikes.

Adetutu explained that FAAN as the airport landlord was doing its best to curb the spread of the incident through the procurement of modern equipment, which he said had gone a long way to reduce its impacts.

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The windshield of an aircraft destroyed by a bird

He also blamed some of the pilots for the high bird strike rates in the industry, stressing that some of the pilots were always in a hurry to depart an airport for the other and violate the instructions of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC)

Insisted that it was necessary for the airlines and their pilots to also have a change of culture by adhering to the instructions issued by ATCs.

According to him, 98 percent of bird strike incidents occurred at airports, especially when taking off and landing.

He said: ”The final say on what happens to the aircraft lies with the pilots. Until the ATC gives clearance for pilots to depart or land, it is necessary for pilots to listen to their advice.

”Airline operators should have a change of culture on how we carry out our duties. It’s the suitability of the environment that brings birds to the airport environment. We have water, shelter, and food around the airports. The runway should be free of activities at take-off and landing.”

Nigerian airlines

Also,  Olanrewaju Iwalaye, Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, NAMA, said it was necessary for all stakeholders to curb the incidents at the airport with the procurement of advanced equipment.

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Iwalaye, however, observed that FAAN had in recent times improved with the procured of equipment to reduce the incidence.

He added that the same programme was simultaneously going on in all the major airports across the country, including the Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Omagwa, Aminu Kano International Airport (AKIA), Kano, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Port Harcourt.

‘We need to find a way to address this challenge. Birds are in their natural habitat and most of our airports are built close to the forest.

Nigerian airlines

‘Apart from birds, we also have wildlife animals, which are also striking. We hope to propose on mitigation in order to address it. We also need to know the activities of birds too. Statistics that were given earlier indicate that 93 bird incidents were recorded as of September 17, 2022, but 32 of these occurred in just two months.”

Wole Shadare