How wasps, birds and volcanoes are threats to airlines

Baggage delays, flight cancellations, pilots with COVID, drones around airports – there are many ways your flight can be disrupted, and mother nature has her own way of causing problems for the flight experience. In particular through interventions of the animal kingdom.

Deer, reindeer, sheep and kangaroos are all known to roam the tracks. In 2020, an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 struck a bear while landing at Yakutat Airport in Southeast Alaska. Stranger still, another AA plane departing from Juneau, the state capital, was run over by a fish. An eagle let go of its hold as the plane passed below, striking it aft of the cockpit window. This is Alaska for you, and while we don’t have any bears, there are plenty of other ways nature can ruin your flight here.

A wasp that builds mud can bring down a plane

Pitot tubes are narrow metal cylinders that measure an aircraft’s airspeed. In fact, they are the speedometer of the plane, and they count. An aircraft with insufficient airspeed may stall, while an aircraft traveling too fast may run out of fuel or overrun the runway.

Pitot tubes are mounted on the outside of the aircraft, usually under the cockpit or along the wing, and provide an ideal nest for keyhole wasps, an invasive species native to Central and South America. South who has found a happy home in Australia.

The problem is acute at Brisbane Airport, where ground crews have become accustomed to covering the pitot tubes while the plane is stationary. Even during a brief reversal, keyhole wasps have been known to settle in and begin importing mud to build a nest, which can lead to pitot tube malfunction.

A keyhole wasp nest is thought to have caused the crash of a Boeing 757 operated by Birgenair after it departed from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic in 1996. One of the plane’s three pitot tubes was blocked, but the air trapped inside the tube expanded as the pressure increased. when the plane climbed, the sensors over-indicated the airspeed by almost 300 km/h. Based on this false reading, the autopilot reduced speed and raised the nose, the aircraft stalled and crashed into the sea with the loss of everyone on board.

Bird strikes

In the United States alone, the FAA records more than 10,000 bird strikes on aircraft each year. Worldwide, they cost the aviation industry more than $1.5 billion a year. In 2008, a Ryanair flight from Frankfurt to Rome was hit by multiple bird strikes while landing, causing so much damage that the eight-month-old Boeing 737 was written off. The most famous bird strike of all time occurred in January 2009 when a US Airways Airbus A320 struck a flock of Canada geese shortly after takeoff from New York’s La Guardia Airport. , causing both engines to fail and a dramatic landing on the city’s Hudson. River. Airports use a variety of bird scaring methods, such as propane cannons, the same ones used to scare birds away from crops.

At Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah, pigs are used to destroy nesting habitat for airport California gulls and border collies are used as bird hunters at Salt Lake City International Airport. southwest Florida. Some of the world’s busiest airports have advanced radar systems that detect flocks of birds, and aircraft manufacturers are testing their planes against bird strikes.

True story – The Canadian Aerospace Research Center has chicken cannons, long-barreled guns that fire bird carcasses at airplane windows, fuselages, and even spinning engine blades to test their vulnerability. Using compressed air, the cannons can fire anything down to a dead chicken at speeds exceeding 1000 km/h. In the 1970s, the cockpits of Boeing’s 757 and 767 were redesigned after a 1.8 kg chicken fired at 670 km/h punched a hole in the plane’s skin.

volcanic ash

Erupting volcanoes spit out clouds of fine ash that can clog aircraft engines, even at a cruising altitude of 11,000 meters. It’s a lesson learned the hard way.

In 1982, a British Airways Boeing 747 was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Perth when it flew over a cloud of volcanic ash spewed by the eruption of Mount Galunggung, southeast of Jakarta. Within minutes, all four engines failed. The crew put the plane into a glide, intending to make a risky water landing if the altitude was insufficient to clear the 3500m mountains along the south coast of Java but at 4100m they were able to restart the plane. one of the motors, followed by the other three. The aircraft then made a safe landing in Jakarta, although the windshield was opaque, having been blasted by the ash cloud, requiring a difficult instrument landing with no means of measuring altitude.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the ash cloud did not register on weather radar, which was designed to detect moisture in clouds.

These days, authorities are moving quickly to shut down airspace near volcanic eruptions. In 2010, Europe endured a month of air travel chaos when Iceland’s Eyjajallajokul volcano erupted, sending a plume of volcanic ash more than nine kilometers into the sky. In 2018, thousands of Australians were stranded in Bali when Mount Agung erupted and the island closed its international airport.

Leave a Comment