engine fire

A bird strike is sometimes called avian ingestion if the bird is sucked into the engine.

When it happens it can cause major damage to an engine and it is a major hazard for aircraft. Because of this much effort is expended in mitigating the risk and because of this the incidence of birds strike is quite low.

Flock of birds around a plane

Flock of birds

Notwithstanding this, the estimated annual cost of damage to aircraft caused by birdstrike has been estimated at £1.2 bn.

So when is a plane at risk from bird strike and what can be done about it?

The majority of bird strikes occur in the transition between take off/landing and cruising altitude. At cruising altitude the craft is by and large above the altitude that birds fly.

 So what can be done about it?

Make the planes more resistant.

This can mean engine improvements to the engine and other critical parts of the plan. An engine is designed to safely shut down after a strike.

Manage the birds

Numerous strategies are employed to scare birds from the airfield and flight path. This includes electronic devices and even birds of prey.

Avoid the birds

This can involve choosing a flight path which avoids areas of high bird density when taking off and landing.


A British Airways flight was forced to make an emergency landing to Heathrow this morning after smoke was seen billowing from one of its engines.

At around 9am this morning, British Airways 762, en-route from Heathrow to Oslo, was forced to return to Heathrow for an emergency landing. The Airbus A319 had some 75 passengers on-board and, having successfully returned to Heathrow and de-planed, there are no reports of any injuries.

It is of course too early to know what the exact problem was although, in such circumstances, bird-strikes are one possible explanation.

A witness: – Chris Cooke described a major change in the sound of the plane as it went over head and then described how he could see that the right engine was on fire. At that point, he said, there wasn’t much smoke. He described the change in engine tone as a dramatic change in tone, almost like a blow-out.

Passengers planning to use Heathrow today have been advised to expect long delays.

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