John Albrecht
Bald Eagles and Bird Strikes

Chapter 13 - “Solutions for Military Aviation Experience” provides sobering statistics of serious accidents with aircrew and civilian fatalities associated with bird related encounters. Between 1950 and 1999 there were 353 serious accidents with 165 fatalities (148 aircrew, 17 persons on the ground). The tabulation of jet aircraft lost by military forces in Europe and the United Kingdom filled eight mind-numbing pages with engine failures outnumbering windscreen penetrations. This included the loss of eight Canadian Forces CF-104 Starfighters.

Three military accidents highlight the serious consequences of a bird strike.

On September 28, 1987, a USAF B-1B Bomber was training on a low-level bombing range. At 600 feet AGL and 560 KIAS it collided with a 15 pound white pelican. The ensuing fire resulted in hydraulic failure and loss of control. Three crew ejected and three perished with the loss of their $200 million aircraft. Subsequent investigation revealed that the route had a history of repeated bird strikes and was dangerously close to reservoirs favoured by pelicans. In addition, the aircraft was not designed to tolerate a major bird strike.

6. Rockwell International B-1B. On September 28, 1987, a B-1B was lost in a collision with an American White Pelican while on a low-level mission in Colorado. Three crew members died. Photo courtesy Denis Cloutier.
6. Rockwell International B-1B. On September 28, 1987, a B-1B was lost in a collision with an American White Pelican while on a low-level mission in Colorado. Three crew members died. Photo courtesy Denis Cloutier.
7. Plate 8. This is all that remains of a $200 million USAF B1-B bomber that crashed after striking an American White Pelican in Colorado. The airplane weighed 185,000 lbs, the bird 15 lbs. Three crew members died in the crash. Photo courtesy Transport Canada.
7. Plate 8. This is all that remains of a $200 million USAF B1-B bomber that crashed after striking an American White Pelican in Colorado. The airplane weighed 185,000 lbs, the bird 15 lbs. Three crew members died in the crash. Photo courtesy Transport Canada.
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