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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-10-087
Synopsis: On January 15, 2009, about 1527 eastern standard time, US Airways flight 1549, an Airbus Industrie A320-214, N106US, experienced an almost total loss of thrust in both engines after encountering a flock of birds and was subsequently ditched on the Hudson River about 8.5 miles from LaGuardia Airport (LGA), New York City, New York. The flight was en route to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina, and had departed LGA about 2 minutes before the in-flight event occurred. The 150 passengers, including a lap-held child, and 5 crewmembers evacuated the airplane via the forward and overwing exits. One flight attendant and four passengers received serious injuries, and the airplane was substantially damaged. The scheduled, domestic passenger flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 on an instrument flight rules flight plan. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
Recommendation: TO THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: Develop and implement, in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, innovative technologies that can be installed on aircraft that would reduce the likelihood of a bird strike.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Acceptable Response
Mode: Aviation
Location: Weehawken, NJ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA09MA026
Accident Reports: Loss of Thrust in Both Engines, US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus Industrie A320-214, N106US
Report #: AAR-10-03
Accident Date: 1/15/2009
Issue Date: 5/21/2010
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: United States Department of Agriculture (Open - Acceptable Response)
Keyword(s): Instruments,Wildlife

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Agriculture
Date: 10/28/2015
Response: We were encouraged to learn about the interesting research program you are conducting at your National Wildlife Research Center to develop an aircraft lighting system to enhance birds’ detection, and avoidance, of aircraft. We noted that this bird strike light will include spectral capabilities tuned to the most effective visual range of frequently struck birds; automatic adjustment to ambient light conditions; appropriate angle to maximize detection; and pulse capabilities to enhance detection. Although this recommendation is now over 5 years old, your research program appears to be active and producing useful information. Accordingly, pending completion of your research to develop an aircraft lighting system that enhances birds’ detection, and avoidance, of aircraft, Safety Recommendation A-10-87 remains classified OPEN---ACCEPTABE RESPONSE.

From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Agriculture
Date: 2/16/2011
Response: The NTSB notes that the research conducted by the USDA and its collaborators thus far has been encouraging. We also note that the USDA plans to conduct additional research in the areas of avian visual physiology and behavioral response to object approach and candidate lighting, and that it is trying to secure dedicated funds for this research area, as none currently exist. The NTSB believes that the USDA’s research activities in wildlife mitigation will contribute significantly to reducing the likelihood of bird strikes; accordingly, we strongly encourage the USDA to continue its efforts. Pending the development of a technology for aircraft that would reduce the likelihood of a bird strike, Safety Recommendation A-10-87 is classified OPEN – ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: United States Department of Agriculture
Date: 9/29/2010
Response: CC# 201000406: - From Michael J. Begier, National Coordinator, Airport Wildlife Hazrds Program: Summary: Scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center (hereafter - USDA) are collaborating with universities and industry to determine the feasibility of developing lighting systems to reduce bird-aircraft collisions. Preliminary studies by the USDA and its collaborators (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Precise Flight, Inc., Bend OR, Purdue University, and Indian State University), published in scientific peer-reviewed outlets, indicate the positive feasibility of such systems. Previous airline use of prototype technologies has shown anecdotal support for the viability of such a system. Full-scale evaluations in an operations environment have yet to be conducted. Although research and development continues in this area, limited internal government resources have constrained full exploration and development of such systems. Research to Date 1999 - USDA research investigated whether it is possible to enhance a bird's ability to detect and avoid approaching aircraft. Efforts focused on avian response to vehicle approach (Le., a ground-based vehicle) and pulsed-lighting treatments relative to published information on avian visual capabilities. Preliminary findings, published as a peer-reviewed scientific article (Blackwell and Bernhardt 2004; attached), indicated vehicle lighting could influence the behavioral response of birds to vehicle approach. 2005 - Precise Flight, Inc., Qantas, and a Qantas subsidiary initiated a field test of Precise Flight's aircraft lighting control system on select aircraft using existing incandescent landing lights pulsed alternately (~0.75 Hz) between 0 and 10,000 feet above ground level. Field-test results reported by Qantas indicated a decrease in bird-aircraft strike rates. Though the information from Qantas was encouraging, the data were limited to only a few aircraft, the test conditions were not controlled, and the species involved in strikes were not adequately reported. Concurrently, USDA and collaborator research began to quantify I) the visual capabilities of other bird species frequently reported to the FAA National Wildlife Strike Database, and 2) the behavioral response of these species to vehicle approach and lighting treatment. Research findings showed the importance of understanding the following: • species-specific visual capabilities (particularly the point at which an approaching object is detected), • species-specific ecology with respect to threat-avoidance (anti-predator) behavior • ambient light conditions impact on avian detection and response to an approaching vehicle. The researchers published this work as a peer-reviewed scientific article (Blackwell et al. 2009; attached). 2009 - USDA and collaborator research began to understand how Canada geese (the species responsible for the US Airways Flight 1549 accident) perceive and respond to aircraft approach and lighting treatments. In the behavioral experiments, scientists viewed the responses of captive birds to a radio-controlled aircraft, a version of Precise Flight's aircraft lighting control system, and full-spectrum LED landing lights to learn more about how geese perceive objects. The research team is currently evaluating study results and conducting associated research on Canada goose visual capabilities. Status At present, there is no definitive recommendation for spectral properties or pulse frequencies within a particular spectral range for aircraft lighting relative to a broad range of bird species hazardous to aircraft and the ambient conditions under which strikes occur. Further research is needed to understand the visual configuration of a broad range of frequently struck bird species, their behavioral responses relative to candidate lighting technologies, and the interaction effects between vehicle lighting and ambient lighting conditions on avian response to aircraft approach. Future Research Needs Future collaborative research will focus on the visual configuration and behavioral response to object approach of a range of species within the following groups: raptors (Le., hawks and eagles), vultures, gulls, waterfowl, doves/pigeons, and European starlings/blackbirds. This research will entail new efforts to understand the visual effects of aircraft lighting, ambient light conditions, and the object approach on birds. The physiological and behavioral data obtained in this broad research effort may lay the foundation for the development of an automated aircraft lighting system designed to enhance avian detection and avoidance of the aircraft, as well as new technologies in aircraft paint and fuselage materials that would serve similar functions. Funding in this research area is limited (there is no dedicated funding), but new opportunities are being investigated. Summary The USDA and its collaborators have demonstrated the following: I) vehicle lighting can be used to enhance detection and avoidance of an approaching vehicle; 2) behavioral responses of birds to flock members, predators, and static objects is applicable to understanding their responses to vehicle (e.g., aircraft) approach; 3) avian visual physiology can be quantified and exploited to provide information for the design of new aircraft lighting systems; and 4) the infrastructure involving the USDA and its collaborators in industry and academia is in place to design, test, and develop new lighting systems for aircraft for the specific purpose of reducing bird strikes. Building upon these successes will require more work in the areas of avian visual physiology and behavioral response to object approach and candidate lighting. The USDA team is actively pursuing funding opportunities and is equally interested in other technologies that can be explored and ultimately be used to reduce the likelihood of a bird strike. USDA looks forward to continuing our contribution in the effort to reduce the impact of bird strikes to the aviation industry and the flying public.