A Striking Situation

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Birds are becoming a greater threat to aviation every day, even as pilots remain mostly mum when they experience bird-strikes -- much to scientists' chagrin.

Matt Klope, with the U.S. Navy's Bird / Animal Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program, tells Aviation Week here at AirVenture 2013 in Oshkosh that in recent years researchers have seen "exponential" growth in the number of large birds showing up as threats to aircraft.

Populations of Canada Geese, cormorants, eagles, pelicans and hawks, among other species, have turned up in far greater numbers during the past few years, and thanks to their size and their flying habits these can be among those species that can do the most damage.

But officials staffing a bird-strike awareness display here note that pilots are encouraged, but not required, to file bird-strike reports, and they know they're getting only a fraction of the incidents captured in their databases, perhaps as little as 20 percent.

Everyone who works on the task forces and study groups around the issue thinks a requirement would be tremendously helpful; but they also know that because such a requirement would be largely unenforceable, the odds are pretty slim of eventually prevailing on rule-makers to mandate reporting.

The latest data, for 2012, are due out in a few weeks, and so far it looks as if the population curve is continuing it's hockey-stick trajectory. It leaves scientists I've talked to here shaking their heads, wishing the incident-reporting statistics followed the same curve.

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