The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Program
The FAA requires airport sponsors to maintain a safe operating environment, which includes conducting Wildlife Hazard Assessments (WHA) and preparing Wildlife Hazard Management Plans (WHMP), when there has been a significant wildlife strike. The Wildlife Hazard Management Plan identifies the specific actions the airport will take to mitigate the risk of wildlife strikes on or near the airport. The FAA’s wildlife hazard management program has been in place for more than 50 years and focuses on mitigating wildlife hazards through habitat modification, harassment technology, and research.
FAA Wildlife Hazard Mitigation Efforts
The FAA addresses wildlife hazards with aircraft through regulatory guidance, data collection, research, partnerships, and outreach. The FAA has a number of initiatives underway, including:
Wildlife Strike Awareness Posters and Outreach
To encourage and increase wildlife strike reporting in the general aviation (GA) community, the FAA’s Office of Airports began distributing “Report Wildlife Strikes” awareness posters several years ago. As a result of this outreach effort, the FAA has printed and distributed more than 30,000 posters to general aviation and Part 139 airports, aviation schools, aeronautical organizations and associations, pilots, biologists and other interested groups both domestically and internationally.. In addition, FAA provides funding for education and outreach to the GA community through participation in workshops nationwide. According to new data on the number of strikes reported at GA airports, the outreach and posters have been successful. Over 1,000 of the strike posters were sent to the aviation community January 2020-November 2021. Posters are available upon request at https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/.
Wildlife Hazards at General Aviation Airports
The Office of Airports encourages GA airports to conduct WHAs or Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) to determine what, if any, wildlife mitigation is needed. The number of GA airports that are conducting WHAs or WHSVs each year has increased significantly. The FAA will support GA airports by making Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants available to conduct an assessment and to implement eligible wildlife hazard mitigation techniques that are recommended in response to the Assessments or Site Visits. The FAA has also made it easier for GA airports to provide justification for wildlife hazard management tools like fencing and subsequently apply for AIP grants for those tools.
Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Reports
The FAA assisted with the development of two recent Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) reports to aid airports with the mitigation of wildlife hazards. The reports (ACRP Synthesis 92: Airport Waste Management and Recycling Practices and ACRP Research Report 174 Guidebook and Primer) were published in 2018. Other recent reports published were ACRP Report 122 Innovative Airport Responses to Threatened / Endangered Species (2015), ACRP Report 125 Balancing Airport Stormwater and Bird Hazard Management (2015) and ACRP Report 145 Applying an SMS Approach to Wildlife Hazard Management (2015). They are available from the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies (TRB) at http://www.trb.org/Publications/Publications.aspx. Synthesis 52 report Habitat Management to Deter Wildlife at Airports (2014), ACRP Synthesis 39 report Airport Wildlife Population Management (2013) and ACRP Legal Research Digest 20 Airport Responsibility for Wildlife Management (2013) are also available at the TRB website. These reports provide further guidance to augment two earlier ACRP reports, Bird Harassment, Repellent, and Deterrent Techniques for Use on and Near Airports (2011) and Guidebook for Addressing Aircraft/Wildlife Hazards at General Aviation Airports (2010). The reports are available at https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/. The FAA is currently involved in three additional ACRP projects: 1) ACRP 10-30: Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Airport’s Wildlife Hazard Management Program; 2) ACRP 11-03/Topic S10-17 Agricultural Operations on Airport Grounds and; 3) ACRP 11-03/Topic S10-18 Considerations for Establishing and Maintaining Successful Bee Programs on Airports.
National Wildlife Strike Database
On April 24, 2009, the FAA made its entire bird strike database available to the public. The emergency forced landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on 15 January 2009 after Canada geese were ingested in both engines increased public interest and the aviation industry’s awareness of wildlife hazards to aviation. Strike reporting jumped its largest margin (25%) between 2008 (7,602) and 2009 (9,474) and has continued increasing to date. Overall, strike reporting has increased from 1,850 in 1990 to an average of more than 15,000 / year for years 2015 - 2019 (17,358 in 2019). The steady increase in reported strikes is contrasted by a gradual decrease in damaging strikes (<5% of reported strikes are damaging).
In 2020, 11,605 strikes were reported, a decline of 33 percent compared to the record 17,358 strikes reported in 2019. The 33 percent decline was directly related to the 37 percent reduction in aircraft movements at Part 139 airports (certificated for passenger service under 14 CFR Part 139) compared to 2019 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 31-year period (1990–2020), 243,064 strikes were reported of which 238,652 (98.2 percent) occurred in the USA.
On average, 47 strikes are reported daily. In 2020, birds were involved in 94.0 percent of the reported strikes, bats in 3.2 percent, terrestrial mammals in 2.3 percent, and reptiles in 0.5 percent. The number of US airports with strikes reported increased from 335 in 1990 to a record high of 722 in 2019. In 2020, the number of airports with strikes reported decreased to 665 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 665 airports with strikes reported were comprised of 412 airports certificated for passenger service under 14 CFR Part 139 and 253 GA airports. From 1990 - 2020, strikes have been reported from 2,065 US airports.
A new version of the FAA's Wildlife Strike Reporting Database was deployed on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. Deployment of this new software presents a streamlined system that has enhanced our ability to collect and process the submitted wildlife strike data. Improvements implemented in this new system have resulted in data from a wildlife strike being available to the public within 2-3 days of the submittal of the strike report. The new database also allows additional search options for users to conduct more customized searches.
The 1990-2019 Annual Strike Report was issued in February, 2021 and the 1990-2020 Annual Strike Report was issued in July, 2021. The annual strike reports through 2020 are available at https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/.
Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Wildlife Hazard Management Plans
The FAA has successfully encouraged all Part 139 airports to conduct WHAs followed up with a WHMP. To date, all Part 139 certificated airports have completed or initiated a WHA and a WHMP.
FAA Advisory Circulars and CertAlerts
Advisory Circular 150/ 5200- 38 - Protocol for the Conduct and Review of Wildlife Hazard Site Visits, Wildlife Hazard Assessments, and Wildlife Hazard Management Plans was published in August, 2018 This is a new AC that defines the minimum acceptable standards for the conduct and preparation of site visits, assessments and plans. AC 150/5200-38 also clarifies the NEPA process for projects included in an airport’s WHMP. The FAA Wildlife Biologists have conducted several training sessions and presented at conferences to discuss AC 150/5200-38 and how it will affect Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Wildlife Hazard Management Plans going forward.
Advisory Circular 150/5200-36B - Qualifications for Wildlife Biologist Conducting Wildlife Hazard Assessments and Training Curriculums for Airport Personnel Involved in Controlling Wildlife Hazards on Airports was published in January, 2019. This AC is a revision of AC 150/5200-36A. The items that were revised include the addition of an option for biologists to meet the criteria for being considered a Qualified Airport Wildlife Biologist. Other revisions include mostly the addition of some clarifying language and updates to resource materials.
Advisory Circular 150/5200-33C – Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or Near Airports was published in February, 2020. This AC is a revision of AC 150/5200-33B. The revised AC includes a consolidation and reorganization of discussions on land uses of concern, as well as updated procedures for evaluation and mitigation of potential hazards. Based on recent research activities, the AC provides updated and expanded information on agricultural and aquaculture activities, water management facilities, procedural guidance for habitats for State and Federally listed species on airports. A new section addresses off-airport hazardous wildlife attractants to assist airport managers. The AC also clarifies language regarding the applicability of AC requirements.
The ACs can be found on the website https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/.
Level of Reporting and Mandatory Reporting
The FAA contracted Dr. Richard Dolbeer, a wildlife hazard mitigation expert, to conduct two comprehensive 5-year analyses for the FAA to document strike reporting trends and gap analyses. The primary focus of the analyses was to examine strike reporting between the five-year periods 2009-2013 and 2004-2008 in order to determine if voluntary strike reporting has increased and to identify areas of reporting where improvements could be targeted. An updated 5-year evaluation will be conducted by Dr. Richard Dolbeer and anticipated within the next year.
The report published in July 2015 (for the 2009-2013 data) showed that the level of reporting has increased at both certificated and General Aviation airports. The increased reporting of strikes is due, in part, to professionally-run wildlife hazard programs. These efforts are likely responsible for the concurrent decline in reported strikes with damage within the airport environment (<500 feet above ground level) in spite of continued increases in populations of many large bird species. The studies have verified the success of FAA outreach efforts. There has been a significant increase in multiple strike reports generated for single strike events as well as a decrease in average bird size involved in strikes complemented by an increase in positive bird identifications (62%) from 2013 - 2020.
Although the current level of reporting is statistically valid and sufficient to negate the need for a requirement, the FAA mandated strike reporting for ATC personnel (ATO Order JO 7210.632: January 30, 2012). Furthermore, the quality of the strike data is sufficient to meet all expectations throughout the aviation industry.
The FAA has adequate data to:
- Determine hazardous species
- Track national trends in wildlife strikes
- Provide scientific foundation for wildlife mitigation guidance and policies
Airports have enough data to:
- Identify & mitigate hazardous species, strike dynamics and wildlife attractants
- Evaluate effectiveness of wildlife management program
Industry has sufficient data to:
- Evaluate effectiveness of aircraft components
In order to help promote strike reporting among certificated and non-certificated airports, FAA created The Sandy Wright / Richard Dolbeer Excellence in Strike Reporting award, which recognizes those airports that have exhibited a noteworthy strike reporting program. The inaugural year of the award was 2014 and the award title is to honor incomparable dedication of Dr. Richard Dolbeer and Sandy Wright; each being exceptional in the management of the NWSD since the FAA first contracted the USDA in 1995 to oversee the collection, quality control, analysis and summation of strike reports. For their commitment to the identification and documentation of wildlife / aircraft strike information, the FAA proudly recognizes the strike reporting programs at Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Dekalb/Peachtree Airport (PDK) as the winners of the 2020 Sandy Wright / Richard Dolbeer Excellence in Strike Reporting award.
The FAA is continually updating the general resource information on the website, including new policies, guidance, training opportunities and ongoing wildlife hazard mitigation research. The layout of the web site https://www.faa.gov/airports/airport_safety/wildlife/ has been redesigned to make it more user-friendly. More resources have been added to the site and all links to resources have been updated. The National Wildlife Strike Database is accessible through the FAA wildlife web site.
Online Strike Reporting
Online strike reporting got easier with the release of the mobile application software. Now, anyone who needs to report a wildlife strike can do so via the new web site or their mobile devices using the wireless link http://www.faa.gov/mobile. The FAA also placed a Quick Response (QR) code scanner on the bottom of all the “Report Wildlife Strikes” posters for smart phone users who have the QR application.
Continuing Wildlife Hazard Efforts
Avian or Bird Radar Technology
Since 2006, the FAA has worked closely with academia, airport authorities and other federal agencies to assess the performance capabilities of commercially available avian radar systems. The FAA issued Advisory Circular 150/5220-25, Airport Avian Radar Systems in 2010 that provides performance standards that airports can use to competitively procure bird radars. As technological advancements continue to improve avian radar systems, the FAA is working to keep existing avian radar standards and guidance up to date. The FAA is currently developing an avian radar concept of operations (CONOPS) manual to assist with the operation of avian radars in the field.
FAA-Smithsonian Interagency Agreement
The Smithsonian identifies the bird species from remains after a strike. Bird identification helps airfield personnel implement habitat management programs. Identification also provides information so aircraft manufacturers can better design engines and aircraft to withstand the impact of likely bird collisions. The FAA provides financial support to the Smithsonian to identify bird remains from civil aviation bird strikes as a free-of-charge service to any U.S. registered aircraft, regardless of where the strike occurred, and foreign carriers if the strike occurred at a U.S. airport.
Research and Development
FAA Airports Division works closely with the FAA Technical Center in order to plan and conducts research and development projects in order to decrease the potential of wildlife strikes at airports. The FAA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established a MOU together in 2005 and continue to collaborate on these research projects to make airports safer by reducing the risks of aircraft-wildlife collisions. The FAA has invested approximately $27 million on wildlife hazard research projects between 2009-2020. In addition, FAA has invested over $350 million between 2009-2020 on wildlife hazard management projects that qualify for Airport Investment Program grants.
Recent research has focused on:
- Minimizing bird strikes through onboard lighting systems
- Investigating the effects of landscape structure on the adverse effect bird strike rates at civil airports
- Efficacy of avian radar systems for tracking birds on airfields
- Habitat use, movements and foraging strategies of hazardous wildlife on and near airports with an emphasis on Bald eagle use of airport environments
- Evaluation of translocation as a management tool American kestrels and red-tailed hawks
- Evaluation of unmanned Aerial Systems as Avian Hazing Tools
- Developing risk assessments associated with wildlife-aircraft collisions relative to management efforts at airports
- Estimating strike risk at airports
FAA Partnerships and Outreach
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
ICAO is the international organization that provides the standardized framework for international air navigation. The FAA partnered with ICAO and several representatives from member states on the ADOP/1 Wildlife Hazard Management Expert Group (WHMEG) that rewrote ICAO’s Airport Services Manual Part 3 Wildlife Control and Reduction (Doc 9137). The WHMEG was initiated in May 2017 to complete job card ADOP.015 “Reduce bird/Wildlife strike hazards by applying new methodologies and technologies” and published the final document in August 2020. Additional international efforts in 2020 included two separate proposals to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to: 1) update the ICAO Birdstrike Information System (IBIS) manual (Doc 9332) and; 2) permit international strike data access and data sharing. Although the latter proposal is currently being considered the FAA was formally asked to address the first proposal by leading ICAO’s ADOP.015.03 Job Card to update the IBIS manual; it is to be finished Q4 2022. The FAA also assisted the ICAO Asia-Pacific (APAC) region with development of new regulatory guidance to mitigate risk associated with wildlife hazards.
Multi-Agency Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
The MOA has existed for many years, and provides the framework for several federal agencies to collaborate on ways to reduce wildlife threats to aviation. The agencies include the FAA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the U.S. Air Force. The FAA continues to coordinate with all signatories in order to produce an updated MOA. The official signing of the updated MOA is expected in 2022.
Bird Strike Committee USA
The FAA co-sponsors the Bird Strike Committee-USA as part of its continued public outreach and education effort to increase awareness within the aviation community about wildlife hazards. The FAA and BSC-USA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2013. The 2019 North American Bird Strike Conference, a joint conference between the Bird Strike Committee-USA and Canada, was hosted by Canada in Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 12-16, 2019. Due to restrictions from COVID-19, the 2020 Bird Strike Conference was postponed. In lieu of an annual conference in 2020, a webinar for airport sponsors, consultants and industry groups was offered in August 2020 as the first webinar in a series titled: The Strike Zone by the Bird Strike Committee USA. FAA wildlife biologists provided information on AC 150/5200-38 and the recently published Advisory Circular 150/5200-33C – Hazardous Wildlife Attractants On or Near Airports.
The 2021 Bird Strike Conference was held virtually on August 16-17 and 19, 2021. There were approximately 380 registered attendees that enjoyed presentations and panel discussions on wildlife hazard management during the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent impacts, risk management, conservation, strike reduction and technological advancements with Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) among other high-tech resources.
National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO)
The FAA works closely with NASAO on wildlife issues and education for thousands of non-certificated airports across the country. The FAA has partnered with NASAO on its Wildlife Committee. The FAA signed a joint Memorandum of Understanding with NASAO and the United States Department of Agriculture on September 20, 2013. The goal of this Memorandum of Understanding is to increase strike reporting and awareness at state- regulated airports. The FAA and NASAO continue to work together to provide outreach and guidance to non-certificated airports.