Helicopters and Bird Strikes: Analysis
June 7, 2013

Bird strikes to civil and military helicopters resulted in 61 human injuries and 11 lost lives since 1990. As with fixed-winged aircraft, bird strikes to helicopters are costly. Available data showed the average cost of a damaging strike to military helicopters ranged from $12,184 to $337,281 per incident, and Wildlife Services (WS) wants to address this problem. Stakeholders representing both civil and military aviation groups, safety and regulatory agencies and wildlife specialists attended a meeting to hear results from the first scientific analysis of bird-strike hazards to helicopters. 
 
WS researcher, Brian Washburn, Ph.D., and WS Airport Wildlife Hazards Program coordinator, Michael Begier, presented results from the analysis that included data from all four military branches and the Federal Aviation Administration's National Wildlife Strike Database. 
 
"Our analysis of approximately 4,500 incidents showed the number of bird strikes to helicopters was highest during fall and lowest during winter," states Washburn. "Also, raptors and vultures were commonly associated with the most damaging helicopter strikes." 
 
A copy of the final report, "Bird Strike Hazards and Mitigation Strategies for Military Rotary-wing Aircraft," can be viewed at http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/06/06/helicopters-and-bird-strikes-results-from-first-analysis-available-online. 
 
In 2012, 772 airports sought assistance from WS and the program provided 232 staff-years of assistance at airports and airbases in every state as well as three U.S. territories and six foreign countries.