Fowl play

July 18, 2008 by Machteld A. Smith, Senior Editor

Recently, I noticed a large bird ahead of me on downwind. I was flying a twin and wondered if the bird could distinguish the difference between an aircraft with an engine on each wing versus an aircraft with one engine on the nose. I figured local birds get to become savvy about those things, especially flying around at our busy field (FDK).

Not trusting the bird, however, I had to think about the best strategy: Do birds dive or climb when they see an aircraft? Turned out the bird was no longer a factor by the time I concluded it might dive. Luckily I’ve never had a fowl foil my flight. I’ve seen pictures, though, of bird-strikes–not a pretty sight.

I’m curious if the bird-diving theory has been verified.

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3 Responses to “Fowl play”

  1. Jason Miller Says:

    I’ve read that birds tend to dive when making evasive maneuvers, but I can’t cite my source on that (long forgotten)! :)

  2. Roy Uchman Says:

    There is an informative publication from Transport Canada, which is available online:
    “Sharing the Skies is a guide for everyone in the aviation community — a compendium of knowledge intended to generate both an understanding of and a reduction in the problems that arise when wildlife and aircraft interact.”

    A quote from chapter 10 of the book, “If you encounter birds, the most effective evasive action may be to climb above them while maintaining a safe speed. Biologists have observed that some birds break downwards when threatened. Other recent studies indicate that some birds may view aircraft as immobile objects, and turn slowly away when at a perceived safe distance.”

  3. J. Ritchie Says:

    I’ve run up on a number of them in flight, and they usually tuck their wings and drop (makes sense because this is the quickest evasive move).
    So my inclination is to pull up slightly when encountering them to help this happen. I’m glad Transport Canada agrees…

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