An airplane flying across the sky faces many dangers. But a very common yet not well-known type of accident is the bird strike. Just as the name suggests, a bird strike is when a plane collides with a flying bird. This may not sound so dangerous, but considering a plane typically flies at 800~900km/h, the energy from the collision is quite significant. If a plane flying at 800km/h collides with a 5kg bird, the energy generated is 92 tonnes. This is not only enough to instantly kill the bird, but also enough to damage the plane.
The most common type of bird strikes is when a bird collides head-on with the windshield or gets sucked into the engine. The latter can cause severe damage to the engine and even cause it to fail. For example, in 1960 a plane flying above Boston collided with a flock of starlings, leading to all four of its engines failing and causing it to crash, killing 62 passengers. Since birds typically fly below an altitude of 9000m, bird strikes most often occur during take-off and landing. However, there are case reports of much higher altitude crashes, with the record being held at 11300m.
According to statistics, the most common type of bird involved are waterfowls and gulls, with 15% of bird strikes being severe. Bird strikes cause $1.2 billion worth of damage annually worldwide and has cost 200 lives since 1988. The first bird strike occurred with the invention of the airplane, as recorded by the Wright brothers (inventors of the modern airplane). As bird strikes cause so much damage, airports place many countermeasures to prevent them. The most frequently used methods are driving away birds from runways by using scarecrows and other methods, or modifying the plane and engines to be more bird-resistant.