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The birds are steering clear

"No one flying airplanes wants collisions with birds. This pattern on the propellers helps the pilots avoid incidents", says Hasse Martensson at Lufttransport. FOTO: Ole Magnus Rapp

The birds are steering clear

Special patterns on Svalbard's aircraft propellers are keeping dangerous birds away.

Lufttransport has been testing a special asymmetrical black and white pattern on its two Dornier aircraft for an extended period with promising results. Widerøe Flyveselskap AS is also painting their aircraft propellers using the design.

Fewer bird strikes

"Previously, bird strikes were a problem, but now pilots are seeing that the birds are frightened and steering away," said Hasse Mårtensson, an airplane technician. (FOR WHICH COMPANY?)

The pattern produces a daunting "chewing" effect when the aircraft's engine is operating at normal speeds.

"Especially during flights for the coast guard, when one stays low over the sea, it is important that bird strikes are avoided," said Markus Krogtoft, another technician.

In Svalbard, Lufttransport flies the routes to Ny-Ålesund and Svea, and has flown numerous missions for the coast guard above the Barents Sea. The company has established procedures for safety checks of all aircraft following bird strikes. During the past few years, the engineers are aware of two bird strikes. The number was considerably higher before the stripes were painted on the propellers.

Thinking the same thing?

Widerøe has been painting such stripes on its propellers since 2012. The company worked with Christian K. Aas, an ornithologist at the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo. He is also working with the Royal Norwegian Air Force and Avinor to prevent bird strikes.

"Black and white stripes painted asymmetrically have an effect," Aas said. "The pattern is selected from tests on visibility made by U.S. aviation authority, the FAA."

Widerøe is reporting positive results with their painted aircraft. The number of bird strikes has decreased at a time when problems in general aviation are increasing.

"It's hard to say what the birds are thinking when they see the pattern," Bjørn Johansen, a Widerøe security officer, told Nordlys. "But as an old pilot I know that if you see something in the air, then you will not fly into it. I hope the birds are thinking the same."

556 bird strikes

Collisions between aircraft and birds damages equipment and causes delays..

"Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show that 556 bird strikes were reported in 2015," Aas said. "Mostly we are talking about seagulls, shore birds and other smaller birds."

Aas said he has great faith in the project and envisions several positive effects of the propeller stripes.

Bird strikes are risky, he said. Hitting birds such as geese are of particular concern since they are large and come in flocks.

The most notable bird strike occurred in January of 2009 when a passenger plane with 155 people on board flew into a flock of Canadian geese shortly after takeoff from New York. Both engines were hit, but the captain managed to land the plane on the Hudson River and everyone on board made a fearful escape.

Se bildet større

Wideroe is now looking to Svalbard, and painting their propellers in the same way as Lufttransport to avoid bird incidents. FOTO: Ole Magnus Rapp

Se bildet større

Lufttransport has hardly had a bird incident since the special pattern was painted on the propellers. FOTO: Ole Magnus Rapp

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