Birds Hit Planes Every Day, but Don't Usually Cause Crashes

Andrew Maloney, an attorney and partner with Kreindler & Kreindler LLP in Manhattan, said the US Airways crash will very likely have a major impact on ongoing discussions about the bird problem at New York's LaGuardia Airport, where the plane took off today.

Maloney, whose firm specializes in aviation issues, said city and Port Authority officials want to clear the area surrounding LaGuardia Airport of birds, but environmentalists don't want the birds, mostly seagulls and Canada geese, disturbed from their nesting grounds.

LaGuardia, he said, was built on swampland and the main runway is just hundreds of yards away from Riker's Island, which with its grassy areas, trees and water access is prime nesting ground for birds.

Maloney said his firm was contacted by the city last year about working on a panel to resolve these issues, but the notion petered out and nothing was ever organized.

"This is the exact scenario the panel was supposed to address and discuss," he said.

The Bird Strike Committee's Web site reports that about 90 percent of all birds involved in airplane collisions in the United States are species that are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The most recent bird strike that took down a plane in the U.S. was in October 2007, when an instructor and student died in a crash into a bog en route to Grand Forks, S.D. from Minneapolis. Remains of a Canada goose were found in the plane wing and the horizontal stabilizer was damaged.

On Nov. 10, a pilot of a Ryanair flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Rome after multiple bird strikes killed both engines. Three passengers and two crew members were injured.

The first recorded bird strike, according to the Bird Strike Committee's Web site, was in 1905, when Orville Wright's plane hit a bird and killed it.

Birds aren't the only animals that cause damage to planes. The Bird Strike Committee reported more than 760 collisions with deer and more than 250 with coyotes between 1990 and 2007.

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