Friday, November 17, 2017

Death in the path of winged visitors

They fly thousands of kilometres over several days to escape a bitter winter and nest in warmer climes, but migratory birds are in danger of dying mid-air just a few miles from their destination. With the nesting season in full swing, flights taking off from Chennai airport and flying over Vedanthangal sanctuary may run into flocks of migratory birds. Already, two flights had to return after takeoff due to bird strikes in the past two days. The flights landed safely though the aircraft suffered damage.
Inspection revealed that they might have flown into migratory birds at an altitude of 5,000ft which indicates that the birds were about to land at the sanctuary. On Thursday, a Chennai-Doha flight which departed at 1.47am flew into a flock of birds at 5,000ft. On Wednesday, a Chennai-Ahmedabad flight that took off at 4.10pm suffered a bird hit at 5,500ft damaging its windshield. Both the flights belonged to IndiGo and had 100 passengers each. An airport official said the Doha flight flew through a flock of migratory birds because there was damage to its nose cone, landing lights, fuselage and an engine. There were bloodstains on the windshield.
Based on the pilot's report and the inspection of the damage, it was assessed that there must have been close to 10 birds. The aircraft was grounded and passengers were moved to another plane which departed after a two hours. The Chennai-Ahmedabad flight had bloodstains on its windshield and its passengers were accommodated in a flight that departed at 6.40pm. "Due to precautionary reasons, the pilot decided to return to Chennai for aircraft inspection. IndiGo arranged for an alternate aircraft for passengers," IndiGo airlines said in a statement. A bird hit is not unusual for an aircraft, but is fatal for the avians. "We usually get reports of strikes or sightings of eagles and other small birds that fly at very low altitude. These should be migratory birds. The planes which took off from the main runway were flying near Vedanthangal sanctuary. Only migratory birds are spotted at that altitude," an Airports Authority of India official said.
The official said birds have been following a set path over millions of years and it was the aircraft movement that disrupted their flight and not the other way round.
17/11/17 V Ayyappan/Times of India