How One Bird Can Take Down a Plane

Federal security officials say that the cause of the crash of US Airways Airbus A320 was believed to be a flock of birds ingested into two engines. What follows is an excerpt of a 2007 report by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture about the dangers of bird strikes on airplanes.

Birds don't simply bounce off a plane if a midair collision occurs. A 4-pound bird exerts more than 6 tons of force if hit by a plane traveling 200 mph, according to a presentation given to Oklahoma County commissioners. Biologist Philip Robinson said some geese weigh up to 15 pounds.

Birds have posed problems for planes since the Wright brothers' first flights in the early 20th century, Robinson said. Notable collisions since then include:

A plane was destroyed after a run-in with a gull near Long Beach, Calif., in 1912. The pilot was the first to die as a result of an in-air bird collision.

A German jet lost thrust controls after a bird hit it in 1939, the first bird collision with a jet.

A U.S. Air Force plane crashed during takeoff at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska in 1995 after a collision with geese. Twenty-four people died.

Birds caused another Air Force plane to crash during its approach to a runway in the Netherlands in 1996, killing 34 people.

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