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Wildlife strikes with military rotary-wing aircraft during flight operations within the United States

Authors


  • Associate Editor: Breck.

ABSTRACT

Wildlife–aircraft collisions (wildlife strikes) with civilian and military aircraft pose notable risks and economic losses. The 4 military services within the U.S. Department of Defense maintain records regarding wildlife strikes with military aircraft. Although rotary-wing aircraft operations comprise important mission components within all 4 military services, no assessment of wildlife strikes to military rotary-wing aircraft has been conducted. The objectives of this project were to 1) conduct a comprehensive analysis of data available from all military services regarding wildlife strikes with rotary-wing aircraft, and 2) provide recommendations to reduce the frequency and negative impacts of these strikes. We acquired all available wildlife strike records and parsed our database to include only wildlife strikes to military rotary-wing aircraft occurring within the contiguous United States, Alaska, Hawaii, or within near-shore areas along the coasts. We assessed the effects of year, month, time of day, event location (i.e., on- or off-airfield), and wildlife group involved on the frequency of wildlife strikes with rotary-wing aircraft. The frequency of wildlife strikes was highest during autumn (Sept–Nov; 41.6% of all strikes) and lowest during winter (Dec–Feb; 10.4%). Wildlife strikes occurred most often when aircraft were traveling en route (38.3%) or were engaged in terrain flight (28.9%). Raptors and vultures were commonly associated with wildlife strikes that caused damage to aircraft. Wildlife strikes to military rotary-wing aircraft during flight operations within the United States are both costly (averaging US$12,184–$337,281/strike event among the military services) and deadly (2 pilots were killed). Published 2014. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

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