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Bird Strikes Anyone?


Flyinrock
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I've been flying helicopters since the late 60's and have been an aerial applicator (crop duster) even longer. In that time of about 13,000 hours in the lowest reaches of the airspace system, I've hit literally hundreds of birds. Some were little sparrows, quail, doves, pheasants, ducks, hawks, and some that were unidentified but large.

Some of the birds came through the windscreen, some were killed by the rotor blades, some by the spray booms or bouncing off the airframe. None of them caused me to crash, none of them injured me but came close. Some of them caused damage that required repair like holes in the bubble, or antennas torn off, or spray gear that was damaged.

All of them caused some concern while flying since they mostly happened at or below 50'agl. Many of them happened at night while spraying crops.

I have personal knowledge of one training flight that happened over Palo Alto when an R-22 hit a "Tern" at about 800'msl at night and gave both the student and instructor the fright of their lives. The bird, with a 6' wingspan, hit right at the support band just to the left of the centerline of the bubble. It came thru the window, hit the student at the knees as a mass of blood/guts/feathers with an explosion of bloody mist. The left door blew off the aircraft leaving a portion of the frame hanging from the upper hinge. Some of that wreckage apparently struck portions of the airframe and tail rotor. Some of the bird detritus hit the circuit breaker panel and shorted out the entire electrical system.

The CFI declared a Mayday thinking he had been in a mid-air with another aircraft and that his student in the left seat was badly hurt with all the blood on him. It turned out OK with a successful landing at Palo Alto and there were no physical injuries except the students knees were bruised. The helicopter was trucked back to Concord the next day where I was able to take a series of photos before it was cleaned up and pushed into the hangar out of sight.

Bird strikes occur nearly everyday. How you respond to them might make a huge difference in the outcome of the flight. I hope this will generate some response and discussion.

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Whoa...... dude! I ask this out of complete ignorance, but what is the situation that requires a night application?

 

In many areas where there is high heat the plants tend to close up or curl during the day and open up at night when it cools down. Insects often hide in the curled up plants as well so night spraying is a better time to get good coverage and insect control. Makes it easier to fly when it cools off and there are less people out in the fields doing work.

Flyinrock

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In your experience, what have you found to be the best avoidance technique once you spot birds in or near your flight path (remain straight/level, climb, dive, etc) and does it vary dependent on the bird's position relative to your h/c (above, below, same altitude, etc)? I have heard various recommendations but have yet to find a bird that consistently pays attention to the advice. They all seem to have their own agenda.

 

BTW, I have only confirmed a bird strike when preflighting the next morning. I found feathers and blood in the rotorhead from what appeared to be a small bird. I have no idea when I struck it, but it was sometime during the previous flight.

Edited by cross-eyed
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In your experience, what have you found to be the best avoidance technique once you spot birds in or near your flight path (remain straight/level, climb, dive, etc) and does it vary dependent on the bird's position relative to your h/c (above, below, same altitude, etc)? I have heard various recommendations but have yet to find a bird that consistently pays attention to the advice. They all seem to have their own agenda.

 

BTW, I have only confirmed a bird strike when preflighting the next morning. I found feathers and blood in the rotorhead from what appeared to be a small bird. I have no idea when I struck it, but it was sometime during the previous flight.

Haven't figured out how to snip for replies yet. Most birds can't climb very fast and as a result will generally dive or do a snaproll diving turn once they see you. Ducks and geese can be flying near your speed and often will turn away rather than dive but will dive if too close. The raptor birds like hawks and eagles will not give way very easily. They generally will make a lazy turn and watch to see what kind of fool you are!! Seagulls are unpredictable and the most stupid bird on earth exespt for the gooney birds. Again, best move is to climb over them. If they are much above you they'll probably turn away in a panic but it seems to me the rotor beat frequency sometimes confuses them and they get really stupid. If a collision is imminent I try to turn/climb in such a way as to take the hit on the lower parts of the helicopter/airplane rather than take them thru the windscreen.

Cheers

FlyinRock

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've had numerous bird strikes and most all were at night when the birds could not be seen. Even on NVG's, birds can be pretty difficult to see and avoid. I once had three bird strikes on NVG's in a two week period. Two of the strikes were on the windscreen directly in front of my face while I was on the controls. Thank goodness neither one of them came through the windscreen.

 

If you have time, climb to get above the birds as most will dive to get out of the way. As Flyinrock said, some of the larger birds aren't as anxious to get out of the way and those are the ones that will do the most damage. One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to wear some type of eye protection. If your employer allows you to wear a helmet, be sure and get one with dual visors and keep both down during the day and the clear visor down at night. Having a bird penetrate the windscreen is not necessarily going to bring down the helicopter, but being blinded by flying debris from the impact most certainly will. If you fly at night and can't wear a helmet, consider getting a set of high quality clear safety glasses. I know that they may not have a very high rating on the cool scale, but I'd rather be less cool and safe then stylin' and dead.

 

Doug

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I'm glad you put 'tern' in quotes, because there are no tern species with 6' wingspans. Some sort of seabird, maybe, but not a tern.

 

That nitpicking out of the way, I agree with the rest. I've hit birds at all altitudes, from on the deck up to a few thousand feet. Fortunately, none caused any damage, but I've seen the results of those that did. Birds do fly at night, and I've hit them at night. Missed one, though, a goose which passed about 3' off my copilots head at 2AM. Missing it was luck, because we didn't see it until well too late to do anything except scream.

 

All I know to do is try to turn away, and if possible go above them. Buzzards, hawks, etc don't seem afraid of anything and don't seem to try to get away. Ducks supposedly will climb, but I have no personal experience with them doing that.

 

I always wear some type of glasses while flying, either sunglasses, yellow safety glasses for fog/haze, or just plain glasses. I know of one pilot who took a seagull in the windshield of a 206, and the only thing that saved him was that he was wearing sunglasses, which saved his eyes. They were covered in blood and other material, but they kept it out of his eyes, and he was able to put the aircraft on the ground safely. Without them, he would likely have been blinded, at least temporarily, and temporarily would have been enough to kill him in that situation.

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  • 1 year later...

Here's a bird strike that recently happened up here in MN. Bald Eagle tries to play chicken with a 300CBI and loses. Great job by the pilot to keep his cool while his girlfriend get's hit in the chest. That had to be one hell of a loud noise when that thing broke thru the canopy. WOW !!! Again great job by the Pilot for bringing it home safely.

 

 

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/myfox/pages...mp;pageId=3.2.1

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In your experience, what have you found to be the best avoidance technique once you spot birds in or near your flight path (remain straight/level, climb, dive, etc) and does it vary dependent on the bird's position relative to your h/c (above, below, same altitude, etc)? I have heard various recommendations but have yet to find a bird that consistently pays attention to the advice. They all seem to have their own agenda.

 

BTW, I have only confirmed a bird strike when preflighting the next morning. I found feathers and blood in the rotorhead from what appeared to be a small bird. I have no idea when I struck it, but it was sometime during the previous flight.

 

The only sure method to avoid a bird is to put as much distance between you and it as you can. Enough distance, it doesn't matter what the bird does- zoom, dive, jink, whatever. I've seen each.

I've hit dozens, most with the main rotor- a loud bang, a puff of feathers, and they're gone- at least up to the large bats in Vietnam. The fuselage strikes, if they don't penetrate, leave previously bird contents in various nooks and crannies at, or just downstream the impact. Not a pleasant clean up. Never had one come inside, but one came very, very near:

I was cruising at 2000 in a TwinStar over the Eugene Island area, and saw a shrimp boat culling catch just ahead at 1215-1230, moving from my right to left. The usual smoke-like column of sea gulls trailing the boat, up to about 1500. I diverted to the right to get more clearance (downwind, a mistake), and started a gradual climb. I saw a gull in a gliding descent, level, ahead, and close! Hard right climbing turn to go behind and above. I saw the gull disappear below my windshield with inches to spare, big sigh of relief.

BAM!!! a cloud of debris and lots of wind... The gull, startled, jinked and zoomed (Believe it or not, they're very agile and powerful flyers) right on the center of the Twinstar nose and pushed a piece of nose cowl 10" high and 15" across into the console/instrument panel. The late gull's carcass slid down the external nose, smearing it up with various gull 'stuff'.

The nose of the TwinStar/AStar is pretty stout. I wear a helmet and keep the visor down to increase chances of surviving a bird through the bubble and give birds as much margin as I can.

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I got a bird the other night, 02:15 in cruise at 1500 AGL. Just a BANG and a big splotch on the windshield in front of my face. Scared the med crew, because they just heard a bang. No damage, just blood, guts, and feathers (very, very small ones) on the windshield. After I shut down at the hospital, I got out the cleaning stuff and cleaned it all off, apparently a small bird that had been flying around in the dark for some reason. Saw another go underneath me just after midnight last night, as I was turning to check an LZ before landing, just a flash as it went through the beam of the lights, missed by 10 feet or so. I have no idea why birds are flying around in the middle of the night, but they certainly are. I've hit at least a hundred birds over the years, but have never had one penetrate into the cockpit. That happens, but it's pretty rare.

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Here's a bird strike that recently happened up here in MN. Bald Eagle tries to play chicken with a 300CBI and loses. Great job by the pilot to keep his cool while his girlfriend get's hit in the chest. That had to be one hell of a loud noise when that thing broke thru the canopy. WOW !!! Again great job by the Pilot for bringing it home safely.

http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/myfox/pages...mp;pageId=3.2.1

I was actually working at Flying cloud when this happened. It was a pretty wicked site to see. Me and my instructor had the great task of cleaning up the eagle blood that was all over the instrument panel and everthing else. Everybody came out fine and nothing greater became of it though.

Helo08

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One other consideration that hasn't come up. If a bird strike is absolutely emminent, you might not want to jerk the aircraft into an unusual attitude. If you do and the bird comes through the windscreen and disorients you, it would be better if you were not in a self induced hard roll to the right. Pulling straight up would probably have the best results. Of course each situation is different, but this is just something else to ponder "before a strike happens".

 

Marc D.

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As a general rule, single birds are not as much a hazard as flocks. But treat pairs of birds of prey as a flock.

 

Last tour in Iraq, I was flying 95+ KIAS from one end of the city to the other when a flock of about 30 pigeons wheeled away from the lead aircraft and then turned again, right in front of me. There was nothing I could do but brace myself and keep flying. It was 6 or 7 all at once that I killed that day with no damage to the aircraft. Wish I could have seen the shower of feathers. I can only imagine it looked like a cartoon.

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  • 1 month later...

I, too had a bird strike in Iraq. Flight of two about 100' AGL. First aircrafts flares went off, everyone tightened up, then boom!!!! I had blood all over my legs. I thought I had been hit.

 

Turns out it was a crane. The bird hit my chin bubble and its little brain landed between my legs on my seat.

 

We landed to get fuel and asked one of the refuelers for duct tape. Good ol' 100 MPH tape. Taped up the window and continued the mission.

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I hit one a couple weeks ago; another pigeon. He turned right in front of me and I could see him look at me and try to flap his wings to get moving away from me. It made it look as if he was trying to slow down, as if he was the one going to fast for me to avoid him. He hit the nose and rolled up and over the top of the cockpit and underneath the intake and down the right side of the aircraft (we saw the "bird dust" pattern when we landed). I really need that little pigeon stamp to put on the side of the aircraft.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Killed a duck the other day. We were out shooting a movie... I was trying to follow some horse riders and had to fly low level following the shoreline. So I figured to pass by once at a little higher altitude to scare away those ducks. All of them took off and disappeared. I turned around, called in "get set... ready", cameras were rolling and then... one duck forgot to lock the door and returned for landing. On short final I hit it at the blade root, choping off its head. The helicopter looked pretty nasty (a lot of blood), but nothing happened neither to the blades nor to the rest. Lucky me.

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  • 3 weeks later...
We fly into our pad over about 60 ducks + pheasants they don't even look up, hope it stays that way.

:ph34r:

Most memorable was a gull I hit back in the mid 80s with an R22 departing the Crescent City (CEC) (Calif). Lots of the darn things crossing from the local landfill to the beaches there... took the bird in the main rotor/head, chopped that puppy up like liver pate. Had the doors off, and between the blood, guts, bird parts and STENCH, it was all I could to land due to the ensueing gagging and wretching it caused me into!!! LMAO, but TRUE!!

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  • 3 weeks later...
If you fly at night and can't wear a helmet, consider getting a set of high quality clear safety glasses. I know that they may not have a very high rating on the cool scale, but I'd rather be less cool and safe then stylin' and dead.

 

Doug

 

The Oakley M-frames are ANSI sertified safety glasses, you can usualy find deals on them if your patient. I got a pair off of www.steepandcheap.com for a about $30.00 with S&H. they have a high transmision contrast+ yellow lens that is awsome for skiing in flat light and at night.

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I had a bird strike yesterday. I just caught a glimpse before it hit, with just enough time to trun my head away and close my eyes. It left a big bloody mess on the windscreen.

 

A quick scan, and a wiggle of the controls, and all was fine. Screw the bird mess, I'm goin' to clean out my shorts!

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Had a strike the other night, which the med crew in the back heard, and almost freaked about. A very, very large bug hit the windshield, and left a huge smear. No damage, but it took some elbow grease to get it washed off after landing, along with lots of windshield cleaner. :o

 

 

In Texas, a bird strike and a bug strike are pretty much the same thing. :lol:

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Had a main rotor strike (UH-1H) while flying into a dip-site. Left a nasty mess on the windscreen and also made the most interesting sound (kind of like a baseball bat to a pumkin).

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Saw one of Mavericks ec130s hit a golden eagle in the ditch last week. Broke the lady's arm and smashed most of the windscreen out. coulda been alot worse if it was three feet to the right....

 

what do you call a pilot with a very recently broken arm?...a passenger.

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