Airplane Bird Strike Data to be Public News

Posted April 23, 2009 by Nicki Krawczyk

Birds2 Score one for the proponents of transparency: Despite the FAA’s best efforts, the rate of incidents of airplanes striking birds will be made public.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood apparently rejected the FAA’s proposal that all bird strike data be kept secret, saying (by way of Transportation Department spokesperson Jill Zuckman) that the public has a right to this information.

The FAA, meanwhile, has been protesting for weeks that posting the information would discourage voluntary reporting and could embarrass or unfairly penalize airports with higher rates. Luckily for the FAA, I’ve got a solution! First, replace that “voluntary” in your reporting strategy with “mandatory”. Other types of airplane accidents must be automatically reported, why not this one? Plus, the government is very good at making "reporting things" mandatory. In fact, having just sent off a lovely check to the IRS on the 15th, I can confirm that they are very good at that.

And to say that airports might be embarrassed or even have travel numbers affected by a high rate of bird strikes is sheer speculation. In general, people have to fly out of the airport nearest to them. Unless there’s some kind of Alfred Hitchcock situation going on, no one’s going drive 50 miles to a different airport with a lower bird strike rate.

Is there a slim chance that would-be air travelers might instead start looking for rental car deals instead of flying? I suppose. But, there’s an equally likely chance that making this information public, if it is, in fact, particularly shocking, might just provide an impetus to figure out a solution to the problem.


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