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Aviation industry told to brace for 8-pound birds

With environmental protection measures giving rise to the number of birds, federal safety officials in the US have called for the construction of planes that can withstand attacks by 8-pound creatures. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), current airframe design standards were devised in the 1970s and need to be strengthened to meet the demands of skies shared by birds and aircraft. A Tuesday NTSB vote recommends that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ensure that the airframes of tomorrow be able to withstand a collision with a 4-pound bird and that the plane tails be able to withstand the impact of 8-pounders. The recommendation comes in response to five people losing their lives in Oklahoma on March 4, 2008 when a business jet collided with a flock of white pelicans, which can weigh up to 30 pounds. According to investigators, striking the pelicans caused severe damage to one wing of the Cessna Citation 500 and knocked out the power in one engine. They further pointed out that the plane could have continued to fly using its other engine, but not with the wing damage. In another incident last January, US Airways Flight 1549 ditched into the Hudson River after it struck a flock of Canadian geese following takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. It was dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when all 155 people aboard survived. The risk of bird-aircraft collision is on the increase. On one hand, populations of most large avian species in North America have been increasing due to environmental protection. The species now have average weights double or triple current airframe impact standards. On the other hand, air traffic has increased dramatically which means more planes and more large birds sharing the skies and increasing the crashing risk.

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