According to the FAA, birds striking helicopters in flight caused more than $3.5 million in damage—and three fatalities—in 2015–17.

    1. DO reduce airspeed when practical. Three out of four bird strikes (77%) occur during airspeeds greater than 80 knots. When operating rotorcraft in areas of high bird concentrations, the likelihood of a damaging bird strike goes up as airspeed increases. Conversely, operating at lower airspeeds decreases the likelihood and severity of a potential bird strike.
    2. DO increase altitude as quickly as possible and practical. Fly higher when allowed by other flight variables, and fly higher at night when possible, as birds also tend to fly higher at that time.
  1. DO use pulsing taxi and/or landing lights or some type of pulsing light system. This helps other aviators (including birds) to spot your aircraft and recognize its speed and direction. Use of pulsing light systems has been proven to significantly reduce bird strikes.
  2. DO wear PPE, particularly a helmet with a visor. Always fly with the visor down. Bird penetration into the cockpit and cabin areas has become increasingly common, elevating the probability of serious injuries or fatalities to pilots and other passengers.
  3. DON’T keep your bird strike a secret. Report your strike at ­wildlife.faa.gov or rotor.org/harp. The data you submit will be used to create a safer flying environment.

Author

  • Harold Summers is HAI’s director of flight operations and technical services. An expert on helicopter maintenance, Harold works with aviation regulators and technical standards boards around the world. He is a licensed helicopter pilot and A&P mechanic who received the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in 2011.

Harold Summers

Harold Summers

Harold Summers is HAI’s director of flight operations and technical services. An expert on helicopter maintenance, Harold works with aviation regulators and technical standards boards around the world. He is a licensed helicopter pilot and A&P mechanic who received the FAA’s Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award in 2011.