Airlines Lose N15bn Annually to Bird Strike

2010-04-20
THISDAY Newspaper-Chinedu Eze

Bird strike – the collision between bird and aircraft, which nearly led to a mishap for Dana Air yesterday – costs the airlines about N15 billion annually.
According to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), bird strikes caused 115 incidents that accounted for 17.4 per cent of the total air incidents in 2006.
The aviation bodies all over the world devise ways to chase away birds from around airports to make sure they do not strike at aircraft, but ironically there is always grass at airports that attract the birds.

THISDAY spoke to domestic operators that have suffered grievously from bird strikes and lost huge amount of money.
An informed source said that Aerocontractors loses N39 million ($260,000) in revenue and repairs anytime each of its aircraft is struck by a bird.
In the last 24 months, it has had 37 bird strike incidents – 19 on take-off, 18 on landing and half of these incidents took place at the Lagos airport.

“A typical bird strike could affect the aircraft’s nose, that is the cone where the radar is. This costs about $400,000. It could destroy the engine, where you have the turbine blade, the thrust and the boroscope. It could affect the windscreen, which is $10,000. It can affect the airframe and that could take the aircraft out for two weeks. Each time there is bird strike the airline loses about $260,000 of revenue and on cost of repairs,” the source said.
Head of Communication of Nigerian Eagls Airlines (formerly Virgin Nigeria Airways), Francis Ayigbe, told THISDAY that the airline has had no less than 15 bird strikes in the last one year, noting that Air Safety Reports (ASRs) is required by law to be raised anytime there is a bird strike.

“As for costs, an engine repair could be from $20,000 absolute minimum (this is approximately the cost of shipping one way) to a maximum of $3.5 million if the engine is destroyed. Most likely, it will be somewhere between these two figures typically between $100,000 and $1.1 million. This is due to the fact that an engine is perfectly serviceable on wing but once opened up it is inspected to workshop standards which are more stringent than in service levels,” he said.
He explained that this is done in accordance with maintenance standards whenever the engine is opened for inspection, and whenever a bird strikes it prompts the opening of the aircraft engine.
“This is not necessarily the cause of the bird strike but there would have been no need for the inspection without the bird strike. These figures are for the B737 only; the E-Jet figures can be double,” he said.
Ayigbe also disclosed that in addition to this is the cost of a leased engine or the additional investment burden of buying a spare engine.

“A leased engine for a Boeing B737 is around $3 million, the E-Jet engine is $7 million. A leased engine for a B737 is usually for a minimum of 90 days (workshop turnaround is usually 60 days plus shipping) and will cost $1 million plus,” he explained.
He disclosed that in the experience of Nigerian Eagle, the airline has been fortunate not to replace an engine due to bride strike.
“Engines are not the only part of the aircraft to suffer; the airframe fuselage is also impacted and damage is caused. We have had three incidents within the last six months on the airframe. The last incident caused us to pay $7,000 for rectification and this does not account for the loss of revenue. The only reason the cost was so low was that our engineers managed to carry out a repair which was approved by Embraer. If this had not been possible the repair costs would have been over $150,000; again without loss of revenue accounted for,” the Head of Communications said.

He also remarked that in other operating environments like Europe, the airport managers or owners pay airlines for damages incurred through bird strikes and to ensure that birds do not strike aircraft at the tarmac during landing or take-off is the responsibility of the airport administrators.
“Sadly, in Nigeria, airlines are made to bear the brunt of the damage,” he said.

Spokesman of Arik Air, Adebanji Ola, told THISDAY that the airline in the last one year has had over 35 bird strikes.
The aircraft involved in these cases include the airline’s Airbus A340-500, Boeing 737-800/700/300 and Bombardier CRJ900.
He said “the cost associated with bird strikes is enormous and this includes direct repair cost (aircraft ferry; repairs at Lufthansa Technik in Cologne, Germany; replacement of parts), indirect cost (insurance premium) and lost revenue opportunities while the damaged aircraft is out of service,” he said.

He said since bird strikes are a significant threat to flight safety, it is the responsibility of the Nigerian aviation authorities to take immediate steps in bird incident control at the nation’s airports to minimise bird hits and a long term strategy to eradicate it.
Tony Usidamen, the Corporate Communications Manager of Dana Airlines, said the incident yesterday was the first time the airline would experience bird strike and it would have been fatal for the airline if the pilot did not manage the incident effectively and make successful air return.
The image maker of Chanchangi Airline, Ibrahim Adamu, told THISDAY that in the last two years the airline had spent over $1.5 million to repair damages to its aircraft by bird strike.

Reacting to the Dana Air bird strike incident yesterday which nearly brought the aircraft down, the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelis Njeze, who arrived to inspect airport facilities at the Lagos airport shortly after the incident, gave kudos to the pilot of the aircraft and said he acted very bravely.
She said that government would stem the bird strike at the nation’s airports.
“We are going to install more bird scaring device. We have some in place but the ones we have are not adequate. So we are going to install more to make sure that we control the birds within our capability. These are things that one cannot really control 100 per cent because they are highly mobile; they fly. And there is an extent you can control them which we are trying to make sure that we do,” she said.

To combat this serious danger to aviation safety, Mr. Akin Adekunle, the Public Affairs Manager of FAAN told THISDAY that the authority acquired equipment to check the birds at the airport but had to drop it and adopt the integrated habitat modification, removal and flight schedule modification approaches. This system, he said, is in line with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) provision.
Mr. Adekunle said that bird strike cannot be wiped out, but it could be curbed drastically, noting that it is a universal problem to aviation transport.


 

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