FEATURES

Bird strike another unexpected predicament for airlines

Tuoi Tre

Updated : 10/02/2013 05:23 GMT + 7

Not only petty jokes, such as the recent fake bomb threats, can delay an aircraft; a bird can also do so.

Part 1: Petty jokes about bombs at Vietnam Airlines
Part 2: This is a non-smoking flight, but…
Part 3: Unique occurrences at Vietnam airports
Part 4: Oh, let me try the emergency exit!
Part 5: Bird strike another unexpected predicament for airlines

Bird strike is one unavoidable hazard threatening flight safety. It is unexpected and unavoidable, and increases in risk at dawn and dusk. No airline in the world has effective measures to protect their planes from encountering the unanticipated trouble.

Perhaps surprisingly, collision with a bird may leave an aircraft seriously damaged.

Unexpected guest: bird

Phung Thi Ngoc Thuy, manager of Jetstar Pacific ground service department, received an SMS message on a late night on the national holiday September 2. It read: “AOG [aircraft on ground] due to bird strike,” meaning that the flying schedule of said aircraft would have to be delayed due to necessary technical repair.

“It’s certainly bad news at the peak period of a holiday,” she said.

The airbus A320 met similar trouble on landing at Tan Son Nhat Airport after a flight from Hai Phong to Ho Chi Minh City. Engineers discovered a large blood stain and splattered remains of a bird on the plane’s engine cover.

Remains of the large bird had damaged the engine. It was out of service for two days until late September 3.

According to pilots, bird strike usually occurs at twilight, sunset, or in the middle of the night, since the animal loses its sense of direction during these times and gets drawn to the light of the aircraft. The two airports in Vietnam that are most dangerous for bird drive are Tan Son Nhat and Can Tho.

This is because the two venues are close to vast grass plots and rivers, food sources for birds. Opposite Tan Son Nhat Airport is an army camp with many trees, a favored habitat of birds.

“It’s even more dangerous for flights taking off or landing at Tan Son Nhat in the early morning of the rainy season when many birds as big as chickens hover,” said experienced pilot Nguyen Thanh Trung, a former deputy general director of Vietnam Airlines.

In 2010, Vietnam Airlines had 15 cases of bird strike, 26 in 2011, and nine last year. The airline had seven cases in the first months of this year.

One incident of bird strike cost Jetstar almost a million US dollars for repair and other subsequent costs, said Luong Hoai Nam, former general director of Jetstar.

In the past three months, three VietJet aircrafts hit birds and suffered damages.

At a conference on aviation cooperation between Vietnam and the US held last year in Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. James White, representative of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the US, said bird strike is the biggest threat to aviation security. Numbers haven’t improved with time: in the US, 1,700 planes crashed with birds in 1990, while there were 8,000 incidents of bird strike in 2011. FAA had a total of 108,000 cases in the last 19 years.

10-hour flight to the place of departure

Pilot Pham Thanh Trung said he would never forget flight BL 570 from Vinh to hilly Buon Ma Thuot on August 2 when, despite many attempts, he could not make a landing due to fog and sudden windy weather.

“The weather was good initially, but when my pilot chief Mark Zucal and I approached the airspace of our destination, it became very foggy and he had to fly around for 10 minutes. Once weather conditions at the other end of the runway were better, I approached, but the fog and winds made it unsafe to land.

“After flying around for a while, I was allowed to land in Tan Son Nhat,” said Trung.

“In the afternoon, it was reported that the weather in Buon Ma Thuot was better and the flight resumed but we had to return to Tan Son Nhat after the weather worsened.

“In the end, passengers were taken back to Vinh at 8:05pm, where they had left 10 hours before,” Trung said.