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Local airlines lose aircraft to bird strikes

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By Abraham Adekunle

Local airlines have lost 20 aircraft to 93 bird strikes in 6 months.

In the past few months, local airlines have lost at least 20 aircrafts to several bird strikes at airports in Nigeria. The bird strikes have led to the aircrafts being grounded without foreign exchange liquidity to pay for severe engine repairs. (Few months ago, Emirates Airlines announced that they were unable to repatriate $860 million in earnings.) The damages done to the aircraft range from minor to severe. Earlier findings showed that the eight active airlines in Nigeria are operating at a cumulative of 38.77 percent fleet capacity.

A total of about 60 out of 98 listed airplanes are grounded pending the availability of foreign exchange earnings to defray maintenance costs. It was announced that local aviation recorded 93 bird strike incidents in the first half of 2022. Out of these, 54 occurred at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. The head of Bird/Wildlife Hazard Control at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Azike Edozie decried the high incidents arising from bird strike incidents in the industry. This costs the airlines several millions of dollars.

It has also caused a number of deaths with human casualties.

Bird strike is one of the dangers of airborne transit. A bird strike, which is sometimes called bird ingestion (for an engine), bird hit, or bird aircraft strike hazard (BASH), is a collision between an airborne animal (usually a bird or bat) and a moving vehicle, usually an aircraft. Bird strike is a significant threat to flight safety. It has caused a number of deaths with human casualties. In the United States alone, there are over 13,000 annual bird strikes. However, the number of major accidents that involve commercial aircraft is quite low: it has been estimated at approximately one accident resulting in human death in one billion flying hours.

Edozie said that records show that there have been at least 93 bird strikes in all Nigerian airports between January and June of 2022. Out of this number, 54 happened in Lagos and it represents 70 percent of the total occurrences. He said that the authority has to offer lasting solutions to the problem because stakeholders, especially the airlines are losing money. The press quotes the Chief Operating Officer of an Airline as saying that the figures quoted by the head of NCAA were not out of place.

FAAN deployed new equipment at the airport a year ago.

Edozie said that the agency has recorded a lot of them that were brought to the public glare except where the passengers raised alarms. He also said that very severe damages to one or two of the engines should be over 20, given the rate of occurrence of the incidence lately. Between 2020 and 2021, there were at least 30 reported cases of bird strikes in the aviation industry. About 19 of them were said to be on take-off and another 18 on landing. Half of these incidents occurred at the MMIA.

The incidents did not really occur due to lack of control measures and investments by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). In 2021, FAAN deployed a new set of wildlife management equipment to aerodromes throughout the nation. At the flag-off ceremony of the deployment in Lagos, the Director of Commercial and Business Development FAAN, Sadiku Rafindadi, said that the deployment of the equipment would usher in an era of safe flight operations and incidents relating to bird strikes would be a thing of the past.

FAAN doing its best to curb the spread of bird strikes.

The head of the Bird Control Unit of FAAN, Adetunji Adetutu, said that FAAN was doing its best to curb the spread of the incident through the procurement of modern equipment. He said that the items have helped to drastically reduce the impact of bird strikes. Adetutu also blamed pilots for the high rate of bird strikes in the aviation industry. He stressed that some of the pilots are always in a hurry to depart from an airport and consequently violate the instructions of Air Traffic Controllers (ATC).

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