August 2012 - Indian Airforce

August 2012 - Indian Airforce

August 2012



Ornithology Special



August 2012


Director General (Inspection & Safety)

Air Mshl AP Garud VM

Principal Director Aerospace Safety

Air Cmde R Marwaha VSM

Chief Editor

Gp Capt S Shrinivas


Wg Cdr MK Srivastava

Wg Cdr GS Bishen

Wg Cdr Nishant Dhar

Sqn Ldr Shashank Sharma

Guest Editors

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

Editorial Assistants

Mr Niraj Kumar

Mrs S Sangeetha

Mr Rakesh Kumar Singh

Graphic Design

JWO G Ramesh

Sgt Chetan Chauhan

Sgt DK Chatterjee

Mr Rajib Paul


Cpl RS Thokchom

Articles/Suggestions may be sent to:

Editor, Aerospace Safety

Institute of Flight Safety

Air Force Palam, New Delhi-110 010

Tele : 011-25672871, 23247789(AFNET)

Fax: 011-25675059,



Every article must be accompanied by a brief bio-data

and passport size photograph of the author.

'Aerospace Safety' magazine can be

viewed through

(links : DG (I&S) % DAS % FS Magazine)

and on the internet at

Suggestions and inputs on Quality

Control issues of the IAF could be sent

to DG(I&S), IAF by e-mail at the

following address:

Round-the-clock contact of Principal

Director Aerospace Safety:

Tele: 011-26172738 (Off)

21125130, 21125131 (AFNET)

91-9717095606 (Mob)



The opinions expressed in the ‘Aerospace Safety’ magazine are

the personal views of the authors, and do not reflect the official

policies of Air HQ. Contributions are welcome, as are comments

and criticism. The Editorial Board reserves the right to make any

improvement/change in the manuscripts.


8 16

2 Bird Hazard Management - The Legal Way

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

4 Changing Bird Environment - How to Evaluate?

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

8 Migratory Culprits

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

10 The Perilous Pigeon

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

14 Letter from Birds

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

16 The Ghost of the Full Moon Night

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

20 DNA Barcoding - How has it Helped?

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma, Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

& Mr M Bala Venkatesh

23 Avian Statistics

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

24 Problem of Birds - Can We Solve it?

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

28 The Dogs of War

Wg Cdr Nishant Dhar

32 Snake in the Fighter’s Shadow

Sgt Biswajit Ghosh

34 No One Saw Jessica...

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma & Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

36 From the Desk of Ornithologist

From left:



Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma, Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi, WO S Singh,

Sgt Nadeem,Cpl M George, Cpl Sanjiv Choudhary


or a pilot, hearing a ‘Thud’ in flight can be as disconcerting as the flashing of any warning light inside the

cockpit, and all of us in the aviation community would like to stay as far away as possible from such a

Fsituation. But that may not be as easy as it sounds. After all, the avian family will, quite obviously, always use

the domain that is naturally theirs! It is, therefore, up to us to understand their habits and habitat and take adequate

precaution. This task is by no means a simple one. The Ornithology Cell at the Directorate of Aerospace Safety has

been studying this problem in a sustained and systematic way to find better management techniques. The

knowledge and wisdom accrued over the years need to be shared with all operators in order to achieve and

maintain a safe flying environment. It is with this aim that we bring to our readers an Ornithology Special issue this


‘No One Saw Jessica’ highlights the fairly common phenomenon that the bird that is most critical to the

aircraft's flight path is the one that is generally not seen! However, the penalty we may pay for such lapses is often


‘Blue Rock Pigeon’ and ‘The Ghost of the Full Moon Night’ are two excellent accounts of the studies

conducted on two commonly encountered bird species, the ‘Pigeon’ and the ‘Lapwing.’ The use of 'DNA Bar

Code' technology for identification of species involved in bird strikes was introduced in the IAF just over a year back.

The benefits accrued and certain rare findings that emerged are discussed in ‘DNA Bar Coding - How has it helped?’

The need to manage the environment and birds was realised in India as early as 1937 and a legal provision

introduced for Aerospace Safety functionaries. The practical and effective applications of these provisions are

enumerated in the article ‘Bird Hazard Management - The Legal Way.’

No account on birds can be complete without reference to ‘Bird Migration.’ The article ‘Migratory Culprits’

gives a rare insight into this phenomenon. In addition, we have a special ‘letter’ from our feathered friends to focus

on their 'views.'

Apart from birds, there are other animals too that raise safety concerns in aviation. ‘The Dogs of War’ gives a

detailed account of how a dog managed to hit an aircraft despite all possible precaution. ‘Snake in the Fighter’s

Shadow’ is a rare and chilling story of a snake ‘boarding’ a moving fighter and resting inside the fuselage.

This issue is yet another ‘Collector’s Edition’ which would prove to be a handy reference not only for

SASIOs, but all those associated with air operations.

Wishing you hours of bird free flying!

Happy Landings.

(S Shrinivas)

Group Captain

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

Bird hazard is a perennial problem for airfi elds. Most problems concerning aviation safety can be

controlled one way or the other. But, there is very little in our hands to control birds. Many a time,

it is frustrating to hold back aircraft, waiting for birds to clear off. We have already lost more than

eighty aircraft in the last three decades due to bird strikes and cannot afford to lose any more. While

that wisdom makes us wary, the pressure of operations, training schedules and VIP commitments getting

delayed, pushes us to the brink of compromising with this wisdom. It is not only wisdom, but also the law

of the land that needs to be adhered to!! Remember the old adage taught during training - ‘Ignorance of

the law is no excuse’. We are aided as well as limited by the law to manage Bird hazard. Let’s take a look

at the provisions.

Rule 91 (Aircraft Rules)

The biggest damage to aircraft is caused by vultures, kites and other raptors. Vultures and kites

are basically scavengers which feed on the offal matter that is thrown in the open. Availability of this

food in the vicinity of the aerodrome increases their population and thereby dangerously increases the


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2


probability of their strike. This was taken cognizance of in India as early as 1937 (decades before the

boom in aviation). The Aircraft Rules 1937, is a subsidiary document to the Aircraft Act 1934 which

governs the operations of aircraft in the country. Rule 91 of the Aircraft Rules (as amended in 2009) is

given in the box. The rule provides teeth to hold accountable personnel responsible for enhancement

of bird activity in an area of up to 10 Km from the Aerodrome Reference Point (ARP).

Though, the rule has existed since then and been revised from time to time, lack of knowledge or

the cold response from the civil administration has made it impossible to derive any benefi t from it.

However, it is important to enforce the rule before any bird attracting establishment/venture comes up

in the vicinity of aerodromes. Once it comes up, while it may be opposed by locals as it is not a pleasant

experience for the surrounding residents, removing it may be diffi cult as it supports the economy of


The rule also has a fl ip side. In most cities, the garbage dump is designed and maintained by the

Municipal Corporations. However, it is a real Catch 22 situation to fi le an FIR against them in a Police

Station, as most of the administrative support for the station comes from the Municipal bodies. Hence,

it is important that we utilize the provisions and prevent such establishments (Govt or private) from

creating such hazards, than allowing them to come up and then keep fi ghting them. It is for this reason

that periodic bird surveys (both on ground as well as from the air) are carried out, and the environment


Air Force Station BKT is one station that reaped the benefi t of this clause. On noticing that a private

party was dumping carcass on the approach path, an FIR was lodged. Just this step ensured that the

person left the city and did not return. This proves that the rule is a potent deterrent. Another case has

been lodged by Air Force Station Yelahanka. The results on the ground are yet to be achieved, but the

process has certainly begun.

It is important to note that even USA where aviation has advanced so much, did not have such a

potent law, though the need was always felt. Section 503 of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and

Reform Act for the 21st Century (Public Law 106–181) (AIR 21) prohibits the construction or establishment

of a new Municipal Solid Waste Landfi ll within 6 statute miles of certain public-use airports. Before

these prohibitions apply, both the airport and the landfi ll must meet very specifi c conditions. These

restrictions do not apply to airports or landfi lls located within the State of Alaska. However, the Indian

law is more powerful in this regard in that it can force an existing landfi ll to close down. Hence, it is more

a question of how much we want to make use of rather than asking what the law can give us?

“No person shall slaughter or fl ay any animal or deposit or drop any rubbish,

fi lth garbage or any other polluted or obnoxious matter including such material

from hotels, meat shops, fi sh shops and bone processing mills which attract or

are likely to attract vultures and other birds and animals within a radius of 10 Km

from the Aerodrome Reference Point.”

(Aircraft Amendment Rules, 2009; Published vide Ministry of Civil Aviation

Notifi cation {G.S.R 532E} dated 16 Jul 2009)

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 3

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi


The Ornithology Cell often receives calls

from Aerospace Safety functionaries

saying that the bird environment has

suddenly changed at the aerodrome. While

this is quite appreciable, what is diffi cult is the

quick fi x solutions that are demanded from the

Cell to keep those birds away. What needs to

be appreciated is the fact that the environment

does not change suddenly. If one has a fair

knowledge of what has happened in the

previous years, it will be fairly easy to predict

the future, rather than be surprised. Consider

some of the following examples:-

Station ‘A’- A Bird Strike (BS) took place

over one of the dumb bells on 29 Jun 2011 and

2012. The likelihood of an incident was told

through a cautionary to the station.

Station ‘B’- In the year 2010, the station

reported nine bird strikes. Similarly, the station

had 9 bird strike incidents in 2011. All the

incidents had taken place during low level


It is not that the bird environment had

changed suddenly. One aerodrome reported

14 BS in a year and only one BS in the

succeeding year. There is another aerodrome

which reported nil bird strike for two years and

15 BS(equal to total number of BS reported in

preceding fi ve years) in the succeeding year. In

Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

yet another station, no BS was reported for two

years but the same base reported three BS in

three months.

Cyclone based heavy rains or similar weather

phenomena do disturb the general bird activity

pattern causing sudden changes. However,

other environmental changes, though dynamic,

are fairly slow. Understanding the past and

predicting the future to gear up for handling

the tough job of Bird Hazard Management

in the present, is a challenge by itself. Making

such predictions based on objective assessment

is even tougher and time consuming. But, it is

worth it. It is something akin to the amount of

time spent looking at various car catalogues,

their costs and features before buying them. An

objective assessment will never make you repent

while subjective decisions can. An attempt has

been made here to give an outline for assessing

the changing environment objectively. The

process has been termed Airport Bird Hazard

Risk Assessment Process (ABHRAP).

The bird environment is a complex system

with numerous dynamic parameters interacting

simultaneously. It is a tough job to put them all

together and prepare a model of bird activity to

predict and take pro-active measures. However,

certain basic parameters have been worked

out for a fair understanding and a fl ow chart

presented here.
















INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 5

Well, you may fi nd the whole idea as too bookish and impractical; however, rest assured that such

studies conducted by Ornithology Cell (and other organizations in the past) have already started

yielding results by bringing out the larger patterns in Nature and at stations. Some might even think

of it as a futile effort / process. However, it is a safeguard which is time tested and included in the

International Bird Strike Committee Standard Practices for Aerodromes. The standards, as defi ned, are

given in the box here.

Standard 8

International Bird Strike Committee

Standards For Aerodrome Bird/Wildlife Control

Airports should conduct a formal risk assessment of their bird strike situation and use the

results to help target their bird management measures and to monitor their effectiveness. Risk

assessments should be updated at regular intervals, preferably annually.

Standard 9

Airports should conduct an inventory of bird attracting sites within the ICAO defi ned 13 Km

bird circle, paying particular attention to sites close to the airfi eld and the approach and departure

corridors. A basic risk assessment should be carried out to determine whether the movement

patterns of birds/wildlife attracted to these sites means that they cause, or may cause, a risk to

air traffi c. If this is the case, options for bird management at the site(s) concerned should be

developed and a more detailed risk assessment performed to determine if it is possible and/or

cost effective to implement management processes at the site(s) concerned. This process should

be repeated annually to identify new sites or changes in the risk levels produced by existing sites.

A professional assessment undertaken in accordance with the standards will build reliable data

over a period of time. This will help in the precise understanding of the problem and in taking correct

decisions for bird hazard management in the long run.

Ornithology Cell might not be able to do it for all the IAF airfi elds. However, there are other agencies

dealing with such issues whose help can be sought by the stations. Some of the academic bodies who

have carried out such studies in the country for aerodromes (both civil and military) are as listed here:-


Dept of Zoology, Jivaji University, Baroda.

Dept of Zoology, Ruhelkhand University, Bareilly.

Dept of Zoology, Saraswati Narayanan College, Madurai.

Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2


In addition, one Bird enthusiast at Naliya has

voluntarily provided such services.

Currently, ‘Environment Impact Assessment’

is a buzz word in the market and there are

many institutions as well as individuals who

can conduct such studies and assist our

aerodromes in assessing the bird environment

in a professional way. These regular studies will

also help in assessing the short term as well as

long term impact on the bird environment.

Such professional and independent studies will

address the potential problems and provide early

indications of likely changes in bird activity.













13. OWL


14. IBIS

10. ROOK


11. LOON

12. TERN

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 7

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

Migratory Culprits


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2


For those who can recall, we had written an article

named ‘Migratory Menace’ in the last bird special

issue of this magazine. As if to prove us wrong,

there were some incidents which took place during this

year, which involved migratory birds. As we dug deeper

into older data, it revealed another migratory bird as

having been involved in BS incidents. Hence, it was the

responsibility of this cell to disseminate the knowledge

and understand the exact depth of the problem. Some

of the species involved are discussed in the following


Lesser Flamingoes

A winter visitor to this country, this bird is largely

restricted to Rann of Kutch area. There are also a small

number of them resident in the same area. But, unlike

the Greater Flamingoes, they are not easily sighted.

However, there has been one case of an aircraft on

approach at night fl ying through a fl ock of these birds.

During Last Flight Servicing, what was seen was only a few

drops of blood and no damage to the aircraft. However,

the next morning, the nearby village was very active

with few stray dogs having a gala breakfast of Lesser

Flamingoes. A visit by the BHCT personnel revealed

that there were nearly 10 of them which had died either

due to strike or due to shock. This stray incident could

have also ended up as a catastrophic accident. These

birds often move in large mixed fl ocks alongwith

Greater Flamingoes. Their movements are known to

be erratic and hence, no pattern can be specifi cally

established. The night movement makes it little more

scary. There is a recorded incident of a fl ock of Greater

Flamingoes striking a civil aircraft at a height of 10,000

feet over Delhi area. (Greater Flamingoes are also largely

migratory, though, there are fl ocks which are residents

of this country. They are known to be occasional, scarce

and erratic over Delhi area.) Considering the height,

range and unpredictability of the area of occurrence, it

is obvious that no specifi c management technique can

be developed for this species. However, Bird radars can

be of great help in avoiding such incidents.

Common Teal

Though rarely recorded as having been involved in a

BS (even in other countries) this bird sprung a surprise by

striking twice in the last Financial year in the Bengaluru

region. This is a winter migratory bird to India from

the Southern Russian region. The BS was not realized

during the fl ight. Even the remnants of the Common

Teal were minimal. Hence, the damage caused was

minimal. One incident took place in October, at the

beginning of the migratory season. The other took

place in February, towards the end of the season. These

being stray incidents, not much can be done to avoid

them. However, a watch on their population needs to

be kept over large water bodies around the airfi eld.

Japanese Quail

The DNA Barcoding results had something

unusual to offer. When the name of the Japanese Quail

was read, the Ornithology Cell could not believe it

as it was not even mentioned in Mr Salim Ali’s book,

‘The book of Indian Birds’. However, an in depth study

and reference to books of recent times and discussion

with scientists who have visited the region indicated

the existence of this migratory bird in neighbouring

Bhutan. Straying into the Indian territory is a real

possibility. Hence, another migratory bird was added

to the list of migratory avian trespassers. This is a very,

very rare incident and has to be accepted as a stray


Northern Shoveler

A deep research into the past BS history revealed

data on the involvement of another migrant involved

in BS, ‘The Northern Shoveler’. The incident had

taken place in January 1998 and there are no records

thereafter. However, this has not come as a complete

surprise, as this bird migrates in large fl ocks and is

seen in huge numbers around large jheels. It also has

a penchant for sports (masti) fl ight and hence, can be

expected to cause a stray incident. As it can be seen, if

there is only one incident because of this bird in fi fteen

years (data perused from 1997), it is a rare occurrence.

As regards the earlier article - ‘Migratory Menace’-

the OC stands by the fact stated that the migratory

birds which are involved in BS are generally the Greater

Short Toed Larks and the Swallows. The rest of the birds

are a rare possibility, but not an impossibility.

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 9

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi


Aerospace Safety


A u g u s t 2 0 1 2


Blue Rock Pigeon is one of the most abundant

bird species around us. The uncanny ability

of this feral species to live with humans

coupled with the devotion of certain people

towards this bird increases their abundance

around us. Their ability to breed throughout the

year fuels their population growth. Their large

numbers have led to many bird strikes on aircraft.

Consequently, their ubiquity is a nuisance and

they have acquired the sobriquet of ‘fl ying rats’.

This abundantly available bird weighs

around 450 gm and can be a source of serious

threat to aircraft, especially when they are in

fl ocks. This bird is also known for its intelligence,

phenomenal homing abilities and memory.

Numerous experiments have been carried

out and continue to be carried out on this bird

because of its widespread domain. However, one

of its very well known traits is its ability to act as a

messenger. While the Postal Dept has records of

having used this bird for sending letters, it should

also be known that they have been extensively

used during World Wars I and II. The success rate

and dependability was put at 95%, even better

than the radio transmission at that time.

This bird has also been known to have been

used extensively for aerial photography, including

during wars.

However, while appreciating its yeomen

services to the soldiers, it is horrifying to note

that it has also brought down aircraft causing


Pigeons are highly adaptive to human habitation and are very

intelligent birds. They are seen in large numbers and are involved

in certain incidents with minimal damage in IAF. However,

knowing the fact that they have caused major damage in other

parts of the world, it is imperative for us to keep them away or

prevent them from forming flocks.

the death of crew and passengers on board.

There also exist records of complete destruction

of aircraft due to fl ocks of pigeons, though

not in India. Pigeons have been a problem the

world over. The US Bird Strike Committee report

indicates that 14% of the bird strikes in US are

caused by pigeons; Irish aviation records around

16% of strikes by pigeons, while the scattered

record of IAF shows the number of pigeon strikes

at around 10%. In IAF, they have been involved

mostly in Cat V incidents, though, there have

been instances of the rare Cat IV incidents too.

This bird generally fl ies below 300 feet.

However, there have also been stray incidents

of this bird striking aircraft at 350 m. It is also

surprising that this bird has been involved in

night strikes thereby indicating that they are

also active by night. However, the extent of their

activity by night is not known.

It must be noted that while identifying the

birds, the station should take care to differentiate

between doves and pigeons. Pigeons mostly live

along with humans and can form large fl ocks.

However, Doves, which are smaller in size and

coloured variedly, prefer trees and rarely fl y in

fl ocks. However, given their all pervasiveness,

pigeons have caused lesser number of BS as

compared to doves.

Though the species specifi c data is limited,

the available data indicates that the BS because

of pigeons has repeated at only four stations

(Hindon, Ambala, Suratgarh and Srinagar). The

statistics also indicate that there has been only

one Cat IV incident and all other remaining

incidents are Cat V.

Pigeon Devotion and Entertainment

Pigeons, do not come and remain in the vicinity

of the airfi eld by themselves, but because of specifi c

activities of humans. In many parts of North India,

it is considered to be a holy ritual to feed them.

This is dangerous to aviation as it stimulates the

birds to form large fl ocks. It also makes the food

availability easy and then allows the birds to resort

to sport (masti) fl ight which is direction less and


There are also people who have mastered the

art of training them for entertainment. Given the

bird’s intelligence, this is not surprising. They can

send a fl ock and get it back with certain calls, as

we do for trained dogs. This is prevalent outside

India as well. Pigeon racing is a famous event in

Ireland. The Irish Aviation Authority has issued a

circular that individuals conducting pigeon club

races should inform the nearest aerodrome well in

advance. They have also laid down guidelines for

conducting these races, so that they are kept as far

away as possible from an aircraft’s fl ight path.

All said and done, though many experiments are

conducted on Pigeons, the understanding of their

behaviour is not complete. At times, they appear in

places where they are not generally expected. On

the other hand, there are hardly any Pigeons in Air

Force Station Sulur, though numerous hangars and

abundant trees exist. If we could actually pin point

the cause, we would be able to place the identifi ed

deterrents at other places as well.


Pigeons are really diffi cult to manage. Their

proximity to humans gets them in our vicinity.

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 11


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

However, their uncanny ability to fi nd the most

inaccessible places for nesting makes them

inaccessible to us. The best way to manage

them is to prevent them from coming to a place,

through harassment. But that is easier said

than done. Hence, we have to look for other

solutions. There are many products / systems

available in the market which claim to reduce

Pigeon population. However, they are all made

for keeping them away from the buildings and to

get rid of the problem of their droppings. None

of them are really made to keep them away from

a large area such as an airfi eld. Keeping them out


of hangars may not ensure that they do not cross

the RW. Nevertheless, some of the measures are

discussed here, along with their observed effi cacy.

Netting of Hangars. This one module works

to a great extent, although there is a general

comment that pigeons search for a hole in the net

and enter the hangars. It has to be understood

that the nets are not foolproof and we should

be happy if these help in reducing the numbers

fairly. As already discussed, given their numbers,

the instances of pigeon strikes are minimal.

Pigeon strikes, however, also happen outside the

station due to their omnipresence. This system

of netting the hangars helps in reducing the

formation of large ocks.

Distress Call Units. While the e cacy of these

units has been questioned, it is the observation

of the Ornithology Cell that the population of

pigeons is not found in the vicinity of the Distress

Call Device. Hence, the Pigeon distress call unit

(used randomly rather than regularly) does

control their activity to a great extent.

Electric Stripes. This is one module often

advertised by many vendors, but its e cacy has

not been exactly checked by IAF. We can also

think of extending the idea to (mildly) electrifying

the netting so that they are pushed away sooner.

Spikes. Spikes do work against pigeons. This

is a good solution for buildings (though not

hangars) as the roosting place of Pigeons is fairly


Design of Buildings. This is one way which

is assured to give results on buildings. Having

slants more than 60 degrees at the likely resting

places (such as window projections) will keep

them away. If permanent structures are not built,

temporary structures with plywood can be made.

The design of the hangars should be without

tresses as is done for some of the blast pens.

However, technology and economic feasibility

are a deterrent.

Mirrors. This is another module which

actually works when there are small and speci c

roosting places inside a huge covered area. Some

of the indoor stadiums and halls use this method to

keep pigeons away from the speaker boxes.

Human Interference. This is one of the modules

which can give assured results. They occupy areas

with lesser human interference, especially at heights.

Gel. This is a product which was originally designed

for industrial hangars. However, the product, which

is costly, has di culties in application. As in other

modules, the e ciency is expected to reduce over

a period of time. There is no scienti c or dedicated

study which exactly de nes its e ciency, apart from

the vendor’s own claims. Its e ciency needs to be

checked by counting the number of birds visiting the

hangar over a period of time, before application and

after application. The cost e ectiveness also needs

to consider the actual number in the vicinity and the

strike history in the station by this species.

Methyl Anthranilate. This product has been

used to protect the agricultural produce on farms

from bird menace. This has been claimed to be

successful against Pigeons as well. However, its

application requires some expertise. It has been

used sporadically at some stations. But again, as in

the case of Gel, a scienti c report is yet to be made



Pigeons are highly adaptive to human habitation

and are very intelligent birds. They are seen in large

numbers and are involved in certain incidents with

minimal damage in IAF. However, knowing the fact

that they have caused major damage in other parts

of the world, it is imperative for us to keep them away

or prevent them from forming fl ocks. The time tested

method of netting of hangars serves this purpose

very well, though other methods should also be

adopted at different times. A scientifi c study of some

of the commercially available products to ascertain

their effi cacy is also needed.

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 13

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

Dear Human Fliers,

Please refer our letter of even reference

dated August 1968.

The reproduction of that letter in

Aug 11 pained us. That letter was written by

my forefather who didn’t have much scientifi c


Let me, at the outset state that we are no more

at war with you. We are not counting numbers

and tactics. We have already lost many of our

friends in an undeclared war with humans and

we don’t want our numbers to deplete anymore

in this way. We want peaceful co-existence with

you through ‘Flexible airspace sharing’. Let us


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

outline some of our views so that you take note

and consider them positively.

Please consider that the damage attributed

to us has come down drastically in the past

decade. The fatalities have reduced to Nil and Cat

I accidents have become almost Nil.

The population of one of the main culprits

in the yesteryears, the Vultures has drastically

reduced and we are trying to save their race.

With their minimal numbers, their harming you is

a rare possibility.

We humbly request you to consider the fact

that we are ‘Bird Brained’ and do not have an


advanced brain like yours. But, we observe the

fact that your own human friends do not heed

your request (and the law) for not dumping

waste in the vicinity of aerodromes. We have

instructed our subjects to refrain from soaring in

that area. But, just as you have people who do

not understand/ violate the law, we also have

such culprits. We are trying to mend their ways,

but it will take time. I hope, you empathise with


In the ‘Flexible sharing of airspace treaty’ we

request you to leave a window for us to fl y in the

Red period. Correct determination of ‘Red and

Green period’ as outlined by Ornithology Cell will

help a great deal in this.

Keep Ornithology trained bird watchers on

duty as they can spot us better and forewarn you.

Many of your own inquiries have endorsed this

fact already.

We have our tiny friends named Swallows

and Swifts who have accounted for many of your

strikes. They are very small birds with smaller

brains and lower intelligence. They are unable

to heed to our requests. We request you to take

cognizance of the nil damage caused by them.

We also have mentally retarded birds called

lapwings. They sleep and become active at their

own whims and fancy. We ourselves are yet to

understand them. But, we are sure that they are

active around full moon nights and we request

you to either restrict your operations or scan your

RW thoroughly during these night operations.

Long grass will help you keep many birds away.

Ornithologists are our common friends and

they understand us better. Their ‘Cautionaries’ are

valid, so please listen to them.

We also have some foreigners who visit

our country mostly during the winter. Their

movements are yet to be understood by us. Early

procurement of Bird radars will help you minimize

‘strikes’ by / with them.

Last, but not the least, is the fact that all the

strikes that have caused damage are not by

us. You also have Bats, who have caused severe

damage. They are from the mammal land, so

please deal with them accordingly.

Birds and pilots Bhai Bhai….

Yours sincerely,

(T Hawk)


Chief of Bird Staff

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 15

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

We all have heard stories of ghosts which

land up uninvited to villages on new

moon nights and haunt their residents,

and even kill them on occasion. After joining

the IAF, we have rarely heard of these stories

though. However, there are other beings that

haunt us in the night and do scare us out of our

skins. Unlike ghosts which have no body and can

pass through walls, our ghosts are living beings,

though embodying ghostly properties. They are

the nocturnal birds. More interestingly, unlike our

other ghosts, these birds prefer full moon nights

to new moon nights. The ‘How’ and ‘Why’ though,

have always been a matter of interest.

In IAF, nearly 30 % of the BS incidents take

place by night. During the day, a strong BHCT is

deployed to observe birds and give prior warning.


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

Even suffi cient arms, ammunition and crackers are

utilised to scare birds away. But, nothing much

can be done at night except for maintaining

the statistics of incidents. The Ornithology Cell

has tried to get to the root of the problem. The

fi ndings of studies carried out point to a way

on how to reduce night BS incidents. (Due to

lack of empirical data, the analysis could not be

done comprehensively. However, the available

data certainly gives a ball park estimate of the

complete reality).

Species Speci c Analysis

One of the most obvious steps is to analyse

the bird involved in BS. Unfortunately, in the

earlier stages, not enough attention was given to

this parameter. Hence, the same was not readily


available. however, that was remedied and an

effort has been made to collect and collate the

data of various airfi elds for the past ten years. It

was found that of the 975 BS incidents suffered

by IAF in the past ten years, the species has been

identifi ed only in 224 cases (only 23%). The

identifi cation has also been vague in many cases

which has had to be refi ned with reasonable

conjectures. Further, a simple parameter like the

time of incident has not been mentioned in some

of the records. Hence, the exact number of day

and night BS could not be decisively established.

As the availability of the data (in respect of

species) is only 25%, the inferences may be

skewed. However, it is considered that the data

will give a fair idea, if not an accurate one.

The species involved in the night bird strikes

and the numbers of incidents (for which species

has been identifi ed) are given below.


Number of


Lapwings (includes Red and

Yellow Wattled)


Sparrows and others 4

Owls 3

Nightjars 2

Parakeets 2

Stone Curlews 1

Cattle Egrets 1

Bee Eaters 1

Pigeons 1

House Swifts, Swallows 1+1

Greater-short- toed Lark and

Crested Larks


Total 50

* In addition, there were six Bat strikes.

The table clearly indicates that the Lapwings

singularly contribute up to 62% of the BS by

night. (For the record, Lapwings have caused a

total of 47 BS including by day). Hence, there is a

need to study them in detail.

For a general observer, Lapwings will be seen

both in the night as well as by day. To understand

the exact activity pattern, scientifi c literature was

studied. It showed that Lapwings are generally

active in the morning. But, they reverse their

activity pattern around full moon nights and feed

during the nights. They are most active on full

moon nights.

With this information, an analysis was carried

out by comparing the dates of incidents with the

dates of full moon nights on the calendar for the

past decade. It was revealed that of the 31 night

BS incidents that were under analysis, 23 had

taken place close to the dates of full moon night.

It is further pertinent to note that all 23 night

strikes under this category happened to be in

the breeding season of the Lapwings (Day strikes

have occurred during non-breeding season also).

The month wise break down of incidents close to

full moon nights (-7 to +7 days) is given below.

Month No of Night Incidents

Apr 2

May 1

Jun 1

Jul 6

Aug 3

Sep 8

Oct 1

Nov 1

As evident, 17 of these 23 incidents took

place during the quarter Jul-Sep. This brings us

to the conclusion that the most vulnerable and

predictable period for BS by night are the nights

around the full moon nights of the months of

July, August and September.

Cause Analysis

It is well known to Ornithologists that bird

activity increases to nearly three times higher

during the breeding season. The initial part is

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 17


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

spent in search for the mate, building the nest

and courtship. Later, the movements increase

to cater to the hungry mouths of the chicks.

Hence, the probability of strike too goes up. But,

the more signifi cant factor in our case is the

presence of juveniles. The eggs of Lapwings

start hatching from July and this continues till

September at varied locations in the country.

The juveniles which start fl ying after hatching

are not used to the artifi cial environment of

aircraft fl ying. It is presumed that the marked

increase in the number of strikes is due to this



Being predominantly a ground bird and of

medium size and weight, the damage caused

can only be gauged as minimum. However, it

also remains a fact that the Lapwing is the

single largest contributor for incidents. It is

for this reason that we have to keep our

vigil high to reduce the losses and down

time of the aircraft.

Recommended Modules

Deployment of BHCT on

Vulnerable Nights. The fi rst change

that needs to be brought in is a belief

that the BS incidents by night can be

reduced. There is a need to deploy BHCT

at nights too, with scanner lights, so

that birds are scared away from aircraft

manoeuvring areas on vulnerable

nights. The most vulnerable nights, as

per data, are the six nights before full

moon night up to one night after the full

moon. Lapwing is predominantly a ground

bird. Hence, vehicles with powerful scanner

lights can be plied on runway shoulders

before every (or set of ) landing and take off, for

scaring them away. The BHCT personnel are to

be briefed and made aware of the threat that

exists on those nights. Only experienced and

motivated watchers (posted to BHCT) are to be

deployed, or else the birds will go unnoticed by


an untrained eye. (Guidelines for night scanning

of the RW are under fi nalization at DG(I&S)


Shifting of Nests. One of the more labour

intensive, but result yielding methods is to

undertake a special drive to keep the Lapwings

away from aircraft manoeuvring area. Trained

BHCT personnel are to be given the task of

identifying the nests and relocating them away

from the area gradually. This would ensure that

the birds, especially the chicks, are not around

the aircraft manoeuvring area during the initial

phase of their fl ying.

Restriction on Flying. SAS & IO is to take

stock of the situation in respect of the Lapwing

activity on vulnerable nights and decide whether

the level of activity is acceptable or not. If the

level of activity is not acceptable, it is better to call

off or restrict fl ying for those specifi c nights.

Vigilance in the Morning. The vigilance for

this bird is also to be kept up during the mornings

during the vulnerable period. It is interesting to

note that there were fi ve incidents on full moon

nights and all were in the early morning hours.

Long Grass Policy. Long grass with pointed

tips gives a tickling feeling on the belly of this bird

and makes it uncomfortable. At the height of 12

inches, it covers the eye level of the Lapwings

and they are not comfortable nesting in such

places. Such grass may not occur naturally at all

places. But, AFA had nil Lapwings in the aircraft

manoeuvring area whereas eight of them were

found near a temporary water body at a distance

of 500 meters from the edge of the RW.


Analysis of data reveals that Lapwings pose

maximum threat to aircraft on the nights around

full moon during the period of Jul- Sep. The other

full moon nights of the breeding months also

pose high threat. Though there are other species

which are involved in incidents, this one is the

largest contributor. Other species will be analysed

separately in due course of time. As of now, we

know the ghost which walks on full moon nights

and the ways of managing it. We only need to

understand the concept and implement modules

in totality to minimize the number of strikes and

damage to our aircraft.

Post Script: Detailed data on the bird strikes

will ensure that other ‘ghosts’ are also put to rest!!

A mailman comes to a

house and finds a

garden gate marked


PARROT! He looks

down the garden and,

sure enough, there's a

parrot sitting on its

perch. He has a little

chuckle to himself at

the sign and the parrot

there on its perch. The

mailman opens the

gate and walks into

the garden. He gets as

far as the parrot's

perch, when suddenly,

it calls out: "TOMMY,


INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 19

Years back, we published an article about

the introduction of DNA barcoding to

identify the forensic samples of bird strikes

and its likely advantages. Now, it is time to take

stock of the situation and plan for the way ahead.

IAF is greatly indebted to the Laboratory for

Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES)

a chapter of Centre for Cellular and Molecular

Biology (CCMB) at Hyderabad for making this

technology available and use it for such an

important application. The details of the species

identifi ed from the strike samples of bird remains

are given in the table (opposite page). However,

what is important is also the innovative way in

which technology was used during the course of

the year.

One of the birds involved in BS incidents

is the Japanese Quail. When the results of DNA


Aerospace Safety

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi &

Mr. M Bala Venkatesh

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

barcoding were received, we at the Ornithology

Cell (OC) did not recognise this name. In a hurry,

we perused one of the most commonly referred

book, ‘The book of Indian Birds’ by Dr Salim Ali.

The book didn’t even list the bird. The matter

was referred back to the lab which informed us

that there had been instances of spotting this

bird in NE India. Moreover, the high percentage

of matching of DNA made us have a re-look.

We searched some of the more recent books by

other authors which dealt with bird watching not

only in India, but in the Indian sub-continent. This

Japanese Quail


ook showed the presence of a small population

of Japanese Quail in Bhutan. We referred back

to the incident, which had taken place near one

of the IAF bases on the border with Bhutan.

Obviously, the bird didn’t know the international

border, transgressed and paid with its life by

colliding with an aircraft guarding that border!!

European Hobby



On the other hand, in

another result, the bird had

99% matching of DNA bar-code

with a rare bird called ‘African

Hobby’. The Team Leader in the

lab communicated the same

to us and told us about the

highly surprising result. This

raised eyebrows and made us

do some research. Once again,



House Swift 15 Red Wattled Lapwing 1

Bats (Mammals-09 species) 12 Common Myna 1

Rock Pigeon 6 Rose Ringed Parakeet 1

Black Kite 4 Spotted Dove 1

Striated Swallow 4 Siberian Stonecat 1

Eurasian Thick-knee 4 Pelican 1

Steppe Eagle 3 White Backed Vulture 1

Martin 2 Blyth Reed Warbler 1

Tawny Eagle 1 White Eye Buzzard 1

Grey Francolin 1 Hobby 1

Swiftlet Species 1 Black Crowned Night Heron 1

Western Crowned Warbler 1 Greater Short Toed Lark 1

Lark Species 1 Horned Owl 1

Tawny Pipit 1 Laughing Dove 1

Kentish Plover 1 Accipiter Species 1

Eurasian Sparrow-Hawk 1 Japanese Quail 1

Crested Serpent Eagle 1 Dragon Fly (Insect) 1

Bird Species - 34

Highest Strikes- House Swift - 15


after perusing many books, we found a record of

Eurasian Hobby (a related species) being spotted

in the region (and near the city of incident).

These fi ndings pointed to two aspects. The fi rst

is the precision of the advanced technology and

the second is the high probability of seemingly

improbable events. These two instances have

reinforced our faith in the technology of DNA


The technology has also helped us in solving

some of the long standing mysteries. One of the

stations had been experiencing repeated bird

strikes. Often, they used to fi nd two blood droplets

over the aircraft. Out of the numerous incidents,

they never got a carcass to identify the bird.

Repeated strikes made the station authorities

uncomfortable, and higher formations search for

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 21



The Station

went out of its way

to minimize the BS but the

numbers only increased. The OC

team was sent hurriedly to assess the bird

environment at this particular station. When the

team reached there, it found hardly any birds in

the aircraft manoeuvring area. It was diffi cult to

understand as to which bird was striking the aircraft

and where.

The OC waited for the DNA barcode code

results to arrive and the results indicated that most

of the strikes involved were by ‘House Swifts’. In

the next trip, the team went looking for specifi c

spots where ‘House Swifts’ were active. The earlier

assertion of the OC that the bird environment was

fairly safe at the station proved right. Far away from

the station, there were Swift hot spots over the

circuit pattern which caused these incidents. The

effort put in by the station was appreciated and the

station was absolved of the responsibility for those

strikes. Specifi c modules were designed to tackle

this problem from the House Swifts.

Mammaland Insect


Bird Strikes form a

large part of the wild life strike

incidents. The other strikes include

bat strikes, jackal hits, blue bull hit etc.

When the samples were sent, LaCONES

identifi ed some of the species involved

as Bats. Identifi cation of the causes of the strikes

threw up many challenges. There are more than 300

species of bats in the world of which 119 are found

in India. Their weight varies from 1.6 gm to 1.6 kg.

Of the many bat hits, it was diffi cult to understand

as to which base needed to be given priority and

for studying which type of bat, depending upon the

seriousness of threat. During the initial liaison visit,

it was learnt that a data bank of bird DNA had been

built up by LaCONES. Therefore, a request was made

to the team leader to to identify identify the bat species so that


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

some measures could be instituted. LaCONES

promptly identifi ed the Bat species involved in

the strikes. Since then, specifi c stations for the

study and implementation of modules have been

prioritized. Bat ecological studies of certain bases

will be conducted by Salim Ali Centre for

Ornithology & Natural History

(SACON) and we


to tackle

the bat menace in a more

effective manner in the future.

Another interesting result that emerged from

LaCONES was the identifi cation of the species

involved as Dragonfl y, which is an insect. In

one case, during T/O roll, a pilot had seen a bird

crossing his cockpit and aborted take off. Though

what crossed was a bird, the sample which was

available on the aircraft was of a Dragonfl y (there

was no blood sample on the ac and only a few

drops of body fl uid was available). Therefore,

with this technology, we are also confi dent of

segregating BS from insect strikes. We need to

have more faith in DNA barcoding technology as

it will enhance Aerospace Safety in the long run.


Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi


India is not the only country where aviation

faces threat from bird strikes. This is a an

affl iction which is faced by aviation industry

world-wide with over 221 people having been

killed as a result of bird strikes since 1988. Even

the most technologically advanced country, the

United States of America, is plagued by the avian

threat. Some US avian statistics are given below:-

Bird and other wildlife strikes have cost

US civil aviation over $650 million/year from


About 4,500 bird strikes were reported by

the US Air Force in 2011.

About 10,000 bird and other wildlife

strikes were reported by US civil aircraft in 2011.

From 1990-2011, US airlines reported 46

incidents in which pilots had to dump fuel to

lighten load during a precautionary or emergency

landing after striking birds on takeoff or climb. An

average of 13,700 gallons of jet fuel was released

in each of these dumps.

Water Fowl (31%), Gulls (25%), Raptors

(18%), and Pigeons/Doves (7%) represented 81%

of the reported bird strikes causing damage to US

civil aircraft from 1990-2010.

Over 1,000 civil aircraft collisions with

deer and 375 collisions with coyotes were

reported in USA during 1990-2011.

In 1890, about 60 European Starlings

were released in Central Park, New York City.

Starlings are now the second most abundant bird

in North America with a late-summer population

of over 150 million birds. Starlings are “feathered

bullets”, having a body density 27% higher than

Herring Gulls.

The North American non-migratory

Canada Goose population increased about 4 fold

from 1 million birds in 1990 to over 3.5 million in

2011. About 1,350 Canada Geese strikes with civil

aircraft have been reported in USA in the period

1990-2011; 42% of these strike events involved

multiple birds.

The North American population of

Greater Snow Geese increased from about 90,000

birds in 1970 to over 800,000 birds in 2010.

The Great Lake’s Cormorant population

increased from only about 200 nesting adults in

1970 to over 200,000 nesting adults in 2011, a

1000-fold increase.

The North American White Pelican

population increased 6-fold during the period


Several species of Gulls have adapted to

urban environments. At least 15,000 Gulls were

counted nesting on roofs in US cities in the Great

Lakes during a survey in 1994.

About 90% of all bird strikes in the US

are by species federally protected under the

Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

From 1990-2011, 460 different species of

birds and 37 species of terrestrial mammals were

involved in strikes with civil aircraft in USA, as

reported to the FAA.

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 23

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

Over a period of 100 years of aviation

history, aviation experts have realized

that there will be birds in the vicinity of an

airfi eld, irrespective of the kind of environment.

However, the type of birds and their number

are decided by factors such as food availability,

nesting sites, climate and predator risk. Their

behaviour is also governed by proximate factors

such as temperature, rainfall and vegetation.

These factors determine the amount of time

spent on searching, foraging, resting and larger

cycles such as breeding, moulting and migration.

Warm spring and summer months constitute the

breeding season for the majority of birds in the

temperate zone. Rainfall usually defi nes the same

in tropical breeding birds. An in depth study

of birds is required for gaining comprehensive

understanding of their behaviour in the airfi eld

surroundings. While IAF has made this one of

its KRAs, there is a need to know the history and

the subject of ornithology itself to make realistic

demands and achieve desirable targets.

History of Air Air eld Bird Ecological Studies

Early research on birds and

aeroplanes was done by a Scottish

naturalist named W Evans as

early as 1916. With limited

knowledge of what the

future beheld, it was not

expected that birds


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

would become such a big problem. Eventually,

a dedicated ecological study on Vancouver

International Airport was done in 1964. This is

one of the earliest airport ecological surveys.

Another systematic study on the problem of birds

at aerodromes was carried out by H Blokpoel in

Canada in 1966. In fact, he conducted specifi c

research regarding the effect of microwaves on

birds. However, no practical solutions could be

arrived at due to various reasons.


A few years later, a pioneering study, with

respect to aviation was carried out by Leshem, a

student of Zoology at Tel Aviv University in 1982

for the Israeli Air Force. His simple, but effective

solutions for the peculiar bird environment of

Israel proved quite effective for the Israeli Air

Force. He identifi ed “Bird Plow Zones” (BPZ) and

gave a simple solution as “STOP FLYING THERE”.

The Israeli Air Force did. He represented the

interests of both, as evident by his slogan, “Take

Care, we share the air”. Despite the years of studies,

Ornithologists have not been able to come

out with a single magical solution. Most time

tested methods include habitat management,

immediate threat identifi cation and avoidance

techniques. But, even these solutions are not

as simple as they seem. Each species needs to

be understood as regards its place in this vast

ecosystem, and constant monitoring is required

to avoid a situation wherein a non-target species

becomes a threat at a later date.

Bird Senses

Most of our modules to manage birds

are based on their sensory perception and

intelligence. Hence, there is a need to understand

their actual abilities and forecast their response

to a fair degree. Here is a peep into their abilities

and limitations.

Sight. Birds are a highly visual species. They

have large eyes, search visually for food, and

spot predators at great distances. Passerines

and Raptors are believed to have the keenest

sight of all birds and can resolve details 3 to 21.5

times better than the human eye. Avian colour

vision is highly developed, reaching into the near

ultraviolet range of spectrum.

Sound. They do not have large ear pinnae like

Mammals. However, the ears provide birds with

essential information. From territorial defence to

mate choice, from recognition of individuals to

song song learning and from recognition of the prey

location to predator avoidance, birds birds depend on

hearing for a wide range of activities. The

frequency range is narrower in birds than

in mammals. Maximum sensitivity is

con con ned to frequencies between 1 to 5 kilohertz.

The sensitivity decreases rapidly rapidly at both lower lower

and higher frequencies. Hence, one of the

gimmics used by some vendors that they are

giving an Ultra sound sound solution for birds is is false,

since birds, like us, can’t hear those frequencies.

Owls are an exception. The Great Horned Owls

hear low- frequency sounds and Barn Owls hear

high frequency sounds better than humans

do. The hearing range of birds encompasses

infrasound. Many Owls Owls can track track their prey

precisely and catch them them in pitch darkness by

their hearing alone.

Taste and Smell.

Birds are nearly as

sensitive as mammals with respect to these

senses. A few taste buds are located on the

rear of the avian tongue and on the oor of

pharynx. They are about 24 in the chicken, 37

in the pigeon and 46 in the Eurasian Bull Bull Bull nch

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 25

and 62 in Japanese Quail. Avian taste buds are

similar to mammalians taste buds but negligible

in comparison to humans. Humans have

roughly 10,000 taste buds. The sense of smell

is rudimentary. This also indicates that we can

hardly lure birds by tasty food.

Other Senses. Birds are known to navigate by

recognising the patterns of the earth’s magnetic

eld. Experiments have also shown that they

orient themselves in ight ‘automatically’

owing to their extreme sensitivity to miniscule

shift in gravity and barometric pressure. This

extraordinary ability helps them immensely

in crossing continents for migration and for

surviving the vagaries of weather. This ability

has helped the birds to be one of the most

successful class of animals. (Very few birds have

become extinct from the face of earth). An in

depth understanding of these supra-normal

senses of birds is still lacking. If we gain better

understanding, we may be able to design

equipment which can repel birds without causing

any harm to us.

Nervous System and Intelligence

Birds actually have large, well developed

brains, six to eleven times those of like- sized

reptiles and similar in proportion to those of

mammals. The brain of birds and mammals other

than higher primates accounts for 2 to 9 percent

of their total body mass. The avian brain analyses

incoming signals, integrates them with past

experience, channels them through genetically

programmed neural switches and activates

complex motor instructions throughout the


When it comes to mastering complex

problems in the laboratory, birds do very well,

outperforming many mammals. Birds quickly

learn to recognize the odd object, not only in a

set of familiar objects but also in sets of unfamiliar

objects. Crows and Magpies do especially well

in laboratory experiments. In one of these the

‘Krushinsky Problem’ the bird looks through


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

a slit in a wall at two food dishes, one empty

and one full, that move out of sight in opposite

directions. The bird must then decide which way

to go around the intervening wall to get to the

dish that contains food. Cats, rabbits, chicken and

pigeons do poorly in this test, but crows and dogs

solve the problem quite quickly. Birds also easily

master complex counting problems. Ravens and

Parakeets can learn to count to seven (some of

the African human tribes cannot count more

than three and anything more than that is ‘many’

for them). In one set of experiments, they learned

to choose a box containing food by counting the

number of small objects in front of it. In one lab

experiment, one Pigeon could ‘remember’ one

thousand pictures and associate with commands

like ‘left’ and ‘right’ to search for food. Now, that’s

a challenge for the boy studying for IIT in your

house. With such intelligence and memory, birds

cannot be fooled easily.


Birds have an amazing trait of adaptability.

They are highly supported by many unmatched

physiological abilities. They can bear extreme

cold and heat with the help of a unique air sac

system and the insulation provided by feathers.

It has also been proven beyond doubt that birds

can withstand extreme cold but they migrate

because of the shortened day and reduced

food availability. In the absence of natural coir

and other cushion materials, they have learnt to

repeatedly use discarded electric wires and cloth

pieces for building nests.

Adaptability in birds cannot be explained

better than this extraordinary story of a battle won

by the birds. It occurred in Western Australia in

1932 and is known as the Emu War. At that time, it

attracted much attention and was covered by the

press. It seems that some 20,000 Emus threatened

wheat fi elds. Soldiers employing machine guns

and artillery spent a month attacking the Emus

(the largest bird native to Australia). The birds

apparently adopted guerilla tactics and split

into small units. This made the use of military


equipment un-economical. After the soldiers

withdrew, fences were built to separate the Emus

from the grain. Hence, the theory of dispersal or

control tactics in the face of physical threat to

evoke a conditioned response of fear and danger

may not be true in all conditions.

If you go around the world, it can be seen that

there is no place where birds do not exist. If birds

are not there, we can be more than sure that the

environment is unfi t for human living. There are

birds of the forest and of the open land. There are

birds of grasslands as well as barren lands. They

are there in cold deserts as well in hot deserts.

Hence, we need to be careful if we are altering

the environment. One bird might go and another

which is more problematic might appear. Thus, an

understanding of the bird population alongwith

the environment is essential. The IAF Ornithology

Cell is studying and analysing the problem in this


How is it Elsewhere?

Often, people quote the systems in some

other countries. However, it is to be understood

that the problem remains everywhere. Though the

garbage management system is better in some

of the advanced countries, the Gulls are causing

problems around their sites and causing severe

damage. In certain countries, the introduced

species have grown into uncontrollable numbers

and have become ‘fl ying bullets’ for aircraft.

Given the kind of problems faced world over, we

in this country are better off except for the Kites

around garbage dumps. The rest of the birds have

been causing minimal damage. The population

of vultures having reduced, we rarely have Cat I

accidents now.


We need to understand the avian hazard

problem in a mature way and analyse whether

a particular BS could have been avoided or

not. There are unavoidable ones with minimal

damage which need to be taken with a pinch of

salt. Incidents which could have been avoided

(whether with or without damage) are to be

analysed and addressed critically.

Many a time, attempts are made to repel

birds using various techniques. An in depth

study of their behaviour is necessary to design

and implement modules to avoid birds. Having

certain basic knowledge, which is outlined here

will help in designing better modules and avoid

re-inventing the wheel. The results are to be

analysed considering various parameters in the

environment. Ornithology Cell is conducting

studies to understand them better and building

on the knowledge acquired by other countries.

It has been conclusively learnt that we cannot

eliminate BS. However, by a scientifi c approach,

we can certainly reduce the damage caused by

them. In any case, we cannot forgo three basic

modules- avoidance (Red and Green Periods),

harassment and constant vigilance.

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 27

Wg Cdr Nishant Dhar


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2


It was a sunny morning, with the mist and

rain of the previous day having evaporated.

The hills all around were white with fresh

snow which gave them a pristine look. Just like

a Christmas card! We hadn’t had any snow in

the valley as yet, but it was getting really cold

now and the snow wasn’t too far away either.

Another persistent shower with the next Western

Disturbance would tip the snow cart on us. The

fi ghters had started up and taxied out. A sight

for sore eyes as the long spell of bad weather had

kept everyone on the ground for the last couple

of days. I got in the gypsy and started my round

of the airfi eld. It was freezing and the gypsy was

as cold as a ‘well digger’s grave’. A windshield tour

of the airfi eld did not seem too inviting but then

I did not really have a choice. I was pretty sure,

the weather having cleared up after a long spell

of cold showers, the kites and dogs would also

venture out today for their various chores. They

too would have a lot of catching up to do just like

the rest of us. Funny thing about these dogs was

that they had a nasty habit of taking a hike across

the runway at all the wrong times. We really had

to watch out for these canines if we wanted to

ensure safe fl ying.

Life has a way of creating fake serenity all

around, lulling you into a sense of invulnerability

and then pulling the rug from under your feet.

But till the time the rug hasn’t been pulled from

under you, you feel ….., well you feel pretty much

invincible. Flying was well underway and it was

business as usual. The walkie talkie set burst

into life, “Dog on runway near middle marker”

That couldn’t be good news. I swung the gypsy

around in a tight turn towards the runway. The

walkie talkie went off again, “Dog hit, dog hit on

aircraft!” It was the R/T set’s turn now, “Jackal-2

suspecting dog hit, switching off!” Damn, now

the clock had really hit thirteen. I entered the

runway behind the CFT and ambulance and

gunned the engine. For some time I forgot the

real reason for being on the runway as we all

enacted the fi nal leg of the ‘Himalayan Car Rally’.

It was a ghastly sight that met us as we narrowly

missed the aircraft and came to a screeching halt

next to it. The aircraft undercarriage was badly

damaged with fl ecks of blood and gore stuck to

it. But where were the remains of the dog? We

saw him lying some distance away in a pool of

its own blood, yelping in pain. Unbelievable, he

was still alive? The dog was very much alive albeit

with a missing leg. He looked like he believed in

the maxim of ‘an eye for an eye’. Miraculously the

stubborn dog continued his agonising existence.

Why couldn’t he just have kicked the proverbial

bucket? The medics having been waved off by

the irate pilot were just staring at the unlucky

canine. The duty doc also came to a screaming

halt next to me, barely missing me. Were they

running short of guinea pigs? “What do we do

with him?” said the doc. I wasn’t sure. The poor

blighter (I mean the dog) was hurt badly and

needed to be put out of his misery but then he

was also witness number two. Ok, so we could

not put him to sleep because he was a witness.

What then was the next step? Preservation of

evidence! That meant medical treatment for the

dog. “Hey doc you think you can patch up this

one?”I asked. “I don’t know if that is authorised. I

will have to check with command.” said the doc.

“Well, you had better hurry cause he is bleeding

pretty badly and there can’t be too much of that

stuff in him”. I said. The doc made some phone

calls and said “Ok so we can make an exception in

the interest of Aerospace safety. After all we are

saving a witness”. This was so magnanimous that

I almost choked with emotion. But there was no

time for emotion. There were reports to be fi lled

out, photographs to be clicked and information

pipelines to be fed.

“A Court of Inquiry sir? But sir that is totally

unbelievable! It is a dog hit sir, what could we

possibly gain by holding this inquiry?” that was

me arguing with command. There was no way

I could talk my way out of this one. By next

afternoon the presiding offi cer and his team

were breathing down my neck. I didn’t think they

could afford to breathe down the dog’s neck. For

two reasons! First was that the dog had lost one

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 29

of his legs and not his teeth. Second and more

importantly, he stank! I felt for the presiding

offi cer. There were no fall guys this time. It would

be interesting to see whom the Court would pin

it on. But I had underestimated them for they

were already way ahead of me. They had already

tagged ‘The Dog’. Blaming the dog would be a

challenge though since he could not defend

himself. The team went to see the dog which

was being treated in a special ward in the SMC,

which was quite funny because it had not lived in

such comfort since its birth. If loss of a limb was


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

the price one had to pay for such lavish comfort

then it was an acceptable trade off. There was

plenty more where that came from. He had three

more legs to boot. Now they say dog is a man’s

best friend. Perhaps because it can read a man’s

mind like a book. The presiding offi cer was an

old washed up fi ghter pilot who forgot to wear

his ‘Ray Bans’ when he entered the dog’s room.

They also say that eyes are the window to one’s

soul. The dog looked into the presiding offi cer’s

eyes. He could not believe what he saw. They

were out to get him. All he had wanted to do


was go down to the mess dump for breakfast

when he got knocked down by that fi ghter.

They should have suspended the pilot’s licence

for speeding. As if losing a leg was not enough

they now wanted to blame him. The shock of this

discovery was too much. Who said life is fair. The

dog’s eyes glazed over and his body went rigid.

One look at the dog could tell you that he had

gone crazy. What he did not know was that he

had solved everyone’s problem. A ‘Form 10’ and

psychological evaluation by the local vet later, the

case was closed. It was safely concluded that the

guilt of breaking up an air force jet had taken its

toll on the dog and driven him over the precipice

of sanity. It was a stroke of genius. Everyone

came out a winner except the dog which was put

to sleep owing to his unstable mental condition.

Poor bloke didn’t know what hit him! As far as the

COI was concerned, it concluded that though the

dog was directly responsible for the accident, he

could not be held to be blameworthy since he was

no longer alive to defend himself. It is doubtful

whether he could have defended himself even if

he was alive and sane, but that is a moot point.

I will now end the story here since it will

not serve any purpose beyond this. This whole

scenario did take place and in our real world it

was a combination of many micro situations. A

high altitude base, the low thrust availability

of a particular aircraft, exacerbated by the high

altitude, stage of fl ight nearing touchdown and

a stupid but swift dog! These were the prime

ingredients for a disastrous situation which

played itself out in real time. I naively but

correctly assume that none of us would want a

dog hit on an aircraft. But look at the dilemmas

created in the minds of the DATCO who gets

a call of ‘‘dog entering runway” as the aircraft is

touching down, the dilemma in the mind of the

pilot who has already touched down when he

gets the “dog” call and the BHCT watcher who

actually reported the dog not once but twice

when the aircraft was on short fi nals. I am sure

it was an avoidable accident but this is where

we need to delve deeper than the obvious fi rst

order reasons. Dogs don’t materialize out of thin

air! How many can you stop? What makes them

tick? What makes any living thing tick? Food,

hunger or procreation? We need to look further

than the regular fall guys on duty. Location of

messes, garbage disposal, archaic laws of cruelty

to animals (what about cruelty to humans on

board aircraft?), indifference of civil authorities

to the dog menace which has taken on gigantic

proportions and fi nally our own reluctance to

implement measures to change the environment.

Blaming the BHCT shooter may not be the answer

to our woes. The answer stares us in the face. I will

not spell it out for you. Soul search if required. For

heaven’s sake, aerospace safety is not the SAS&IO’s

and his staff’s responsibility alone. Get hold of

the others. I know of commanders who have the

vision and are in the process of integrating when

all everyone wants to do is differentiate. Hats off

to these visionaries and I sincerely hope we ALL

work towards a safe fl ying environment. Happy


INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 31

Sgt Biswajit Ghosh

Snakes have the dubious distinction of

scaring the living daylights out of people.

Therefore, the thought of encountering

one in your bathroom or car does send chills

down your spine. I believe there has been a

bizarre case of a snake taking a ride in the famous

Assam courier, though whether it was on the

Green Manifest or not is anybody’s guess. But I

am about to narrate the story of a snake fi nding

its way into the inner recesses of a MiG-21.

On a sunny afternoon in April 2009, a MiG-21

landed at one of the North Eastern airfi elds. As the

aircraft was nearing the parking bay, some people

saw a snake slithering up the landing gear of the

aircraft. The aircraft was parked separately for this

unrecorded emergency. In the meantime, the


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

snake went up and found a cozy conduit to rest.

I was known in the station for catching snakes

and rescuing them. While people had the relief of

getting rid of the snake, I had the joy of rescuing

them and honing my skills. Generally, I got calls

from orderly offi cers or some friend panicking on

fi nding a snake in the house or in the offi ce. But,

the call on this day was a special one.

The SEO of the Sqn was on the phone and

called me over to the Sqn to pull out the snake

from the aircraft. By the time I changed my rig,

the air crew van had arrived at my house. Within

minutes, I was in front of the aircraft. I found that

one aircraft was kept separately on the tarmac

and at least 50 air warriors were standing around

it. Some of the eye witnesses informed me that


when the aircraft was taxing-in, the snake had

gone into the aircraft via the under carriage. I was

surprised at the incident, but knew that it could

be a possibility, considering the agility and speed

of rat snakes.

I got down to my business of looking for

the snake. I peeped through the small hole of

the under carriage chamber, but there was no

sign of the snake. Some of the air warriors were

speculating that the snake must have left, but I

knew for sure that once the snake got into a dark

hollow inside the wing of the aircraft, it would

not come out soon. I took a torch and scanned

intensely. Finally I saw the tail of the snake deep

inside. By the size, shape and colour, I could

recognize that it was a rat snake. It was lying

in the hollow at the wing root. The place was

unreachable to me, so I asked the SEO to remove

some of the panels of the wing.

Though the airframe fi tter tradesman who

was asked to remove the plates had done the job

innumerable times earlier in his life, he shuddered

at the very idea. No one was ready to do the job.

Finally, I asked permission from the SEO to do

it myself, which was granted (there was hardly

any other choice). I removed many panels one

after another and fi nally got access to the snake.

I removed it like pulling out a rope in the store.

This stunned many who saw me doing this for

the fi rst time. I pointed out some of the general

features of the species. By that time, all personnel

of the unit had assembled in front of the aircraft.

We even clicked some photographs of the snake.

The incident didn’t result in any damage.

However, it proved the validity of the cliché

‘Nothing is impossible’. This snake got into the

aircraft after landing. If the same had happened

when the aircraft was taxiing for takeoff, it could

have had serious repercussions. It could have

got jammed between the control linkages and

hindered smooth movement at a critical stage,

leading to disaster. If it had bitten or punctured

any of the linings such as oxygen or fuel systems

or pulled out any electrical connections, it could

have resulted in a serious emergency.

The incident reiterated the importance of

being vigilant. The probability of fi nding such

snakes inside aircraft which have been standing

for a long time due to AOG and other reasons is

very high. The desert regions of Rajasthan and

Gujarat have many poisonous snakes. Technicians

need to be careful while opening the panels after

a long time. The station should have a hot-line

connection with some snake catcher inside/near

the station. It is worth having a person trained for

it. He might be used rarely, but would be of great

help on the D day.

I was very happy that I had contributed to

Aerospace Safety on that day in my own special


Editor’s Comments :- A very real threat

especially in the North Eastern states, Punjab and

Rajasthan. We need to be more watchful in case

of ac having been on long AOG, in which not only

snakes but rats too have been known to reside.

INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 33


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2

Almost a decade back, all the news papers

covered Jessica Lal’s murder case in detail for

a considerable time. Subsequently, a bunch

of investigating agencies (legal, media and movie

makers) jumped into this fray and wrote volumes on

the fi ndings and recommendations to release a movie

called ‘No One Killed Jessica.’

While completing its third year into the business

of Bird Hazard Management, the ornithology cell has

noticed that many birds in our aerodromes are like

‘Jessica’, in that, no one sees them until they collide

with an aircraft.

Although this sounds sarcastic and humorous,

the investigating agencies in the past three years have

accepted this. These ‘Jessicas’ were generally identifi ed

subsequently as birds of considerable size.

Though the prime causes leading to both the

infamous crime and our bird strike were different, the

number of eyes available at the site of incident and

the result of inquiries have a glaring similarity, ‘No one

saw Jessica’ till the mishap happened. Some of the

examples are cited here.

In one of the incidents, before turning onto fi nals

the crew of a Dornier saw three birds (two on the

starboard side and one on the port side). The crew

initiated avoidance action but could not avoid the

strike. However, what was surprising was that, the bird

watchers and AOLO on duty could not locate any bird

(Jessica) on the base leg.

In another incident, an AN-32 had a bird hit during

a roller at the unstick stage and carried out a full stop

landing. Such a serious incident was preceded by a “no

bird” report.

Another incident involved ‘PTT Ops’ where no

birds were reported on approach by the ACP Pilot,

runway controller or Bird Watchers. Hence, the DATCO

gave a landing clearance to the aircraft. The crew of


the aircraft reported birds on fi nal approach at

1 to 1.5 Km from touchdown. As the aircraft was

touching down, the runway controller reported

heavy bird activity on the approach for PTT. Bird

watchers also reported birds in that area. The ACP

pilot also saw these birds and found the situation

unsafe. He therefore called off ‘PTT Ops’. Actually,

the subject aircraft had already had a bird strike

at 1 to 1.5 Km from touch down but no one saw

‘Jessica’ till it collided with the aircraft.

A Single pigeon came in the path of an

aircraft on take-off roll, between DTGM 6 and 7.

The pigeon could not be spotted because of its

‘small’ size (30 Cms). Possibility of a pigeon being

close to the runway and being missed out in scan

due to camoufl age was cited. Though many eyes

were watching the aircraft, no one could see

‘Jessica’ even when it collided with the aircraft on

the runway.

In yet another instance, the DATCO got a call

from the bird watcher regarding remains of a

dead bird lying on the runway. The bird watcher

responsible for scanning had scanned in his

AOR and found no bird activity at the time of

the aircraft coming in for a landing. The runway

controller scanned his area of responsibility for

any bird activity up to 2500 feet from his post.

Despite all eyes watching, none saw the ‘Jessica’.

In a last but strange example, an Avro

was delayed for fi ve minutes at the place of

departure due to bird activity. The destination

aerodrome had also issued a caution for bird

strike on Air Traffi c Information System (ATIS).

Runway inspection was carried out 15 min

before the AVRO landed. Three minutes prior to

landing, the ATC informed the crew of excessive

bird activity on the airfi eld. As the aircraft came

in for landing, a bird apparently sitting on the

left side of the runway fl ew over the aircraft

and post landing, during runway inspection a

Wg Cdr Vinayak Sharma &

Sqn Ldr S Srinidhi

‘Jessica’ was discovered on the runway. But, the

cameramen recording aircraft videos of landings

erred in recording this particular landing due to

‘surprising’ reasons. Even the ‘instrument eye’

wanted to turn a blind eye to this ‘Jessica’.

Apart from these reported and investigated

incidents which have come to light, there might

be many more which have not yet been reported.

Such repeated happenings are a cause of concern

at all levels.

In all these incidents, it was a common

denominator that certain eyes failed to spot

birds resulting in bird strikes. No one was found

responsible for not spotting them in time. The

reasons could be many. It might be inexperience,

actual camoufl aging, fatigue or sheer lackadaisical

approach. But, all personnel must be made to

realise that such misses can prove costly or even

fatal. The IAF has had a clean record for more than

three years without a Cat I accident because of BS.

This has happened for the fi rst time in our history.

But, rather than feeling a sense of achievement,

it should ring alarm bells. The Law of Averages

suggests that we might be running out of luck

anytime. What will work surely is a professional

approach by motivated personnel. Even a

single weak link can cause the safety record to

break. Repeated acceptance of such excuses by

Aerospace Safety authorities will surely lead to

complacency. There is an urgent need to employ

trained and motivated personnel and hold them

responsible, lest all the good work done so far in

preventing bird strikes be lost, once again.

Editor’s Comments :-

The Bird Watcher’s responsibilities are of crucial

importance. Lapse of attention even for a moment

can lead to unacceptable losses. Bird Watchers

must be made to understand their role in the safety


INDIAN AIR FORCE 2 0 1 2 A u g u s t

Aerospace Safety 35


Aerospace Safety

A u g u s t 2 0 1 2


Food: Buds, fruits, vegetables,

nuts, berries and seeds. Wild fl ocks

also fl y several miles to forage in

farmlands and orchards causing

extensive damage. They have

been found to feed extensively on

pigeon pea.

Breeding: December to July;

varying locally


Modules for management

Weep hole management

Canopy engineering

Observe `Red period’





Round-the-clock contact of PD Aerospace Safety: Tele: 011-26172738, Mob: +91-9717095606 e-mail:

Articles/Suggestions may be sent to: Editor, Aerospace Safety Magazine, Institute of Flight Safety, New Delhi-110 010 e-mail:,

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines