There are indications that Nigerian airlines lose at least $15 million (about N5.4 billion) annually to bird strike incidents across the country’s airports and airfields.
Bird strike incidents usually affect the engines of aircraft, which cost about $1.5 million (N547.5 million) to replace, depending on the type and capacity of the aircraft involved in the incident. This is apart from the cost of shipping the engine into the country.
Nigerian airlines experience at least 10 bird strike incidents annually and in the past 24 months, there have been no fewer than 27 bird strike incidents recorded across the country’s airports.
Statistics of the incidents obtained indicated that the airlines encountered 14 bird strikes during take-offs and another 13 on landings, with half of the incidents happening at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
In the past two months, at least two Nigerian carriers experienced major bird strike incidents that severely damaged the aircraft’s engines, costing the airlines and their insurers millions of dollars to replace the engines.
It would be recalled that a Dana Air jet, an MD 83 with the registration number 5N-SRI, experienced a bird strike while taking off from Murtala Muhammed en route to Port Harcourt, forcing the plane to return to Lagos.
A source close to the airline revealed that the airline spent at least $1.5 million (N547.5 million) to replace the damaged engine and return the aircraft to service.
It took the airline almost a month before the aircraft could fly again.
A similar incident occurred on May 15, 2017, when a Med-View Airline aircraft, a Boeing 737 with the registration number 5N-MAA, was hit by birds during take-off from Maiduguri Airport.
The aircraft was departing Maiduguri to Lagos via Abuja with over 100 passengers on board. The pilot had to immediately return to Maiduguri and disembarked all the passengers, who were later told to return to their various homes for another rescheduled flight the following day.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation 2006/2009 Part 18 Offenses – Paragraph 23 (1), states that an aerodrome operator can be liable to a fine of N2.5 million in case of a bird strike, but the regulatory agency has yet to sanction the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for any bird strike incidents at the nation’s airports.
An aircraft engineer with the defunct Nigeria Airways, Chris Amokwu, in an interview, blamed the FAAN for the massive losses recorded by the airlines due to bird strike incidents.
He explained that FAAN, as landlord of the airport, seems helpless in tackling the menace in spite of its Department of Wildlife Control, saying that the agency is yet to adopt modern technologies to reduce the threat in any of the nation’s airports.
Amokwu noted that the FAAN was yet to identify the species of bird that creates the problems for airline and the things that attract birds to the airport.
He also lamented FAAN’s failure to acquire modern equipment that would reduce birds’ activities at the nation’s airports.
“The FAAN is just looking at the airlines and allowing them to bear the cost alone through their insurance companies. Our approach to the menace has to be forensic because you need to know the kinds of birds that are coming around. It is so deep and a lot of people who work in wildlife here just scratch the surface. They are not helping the airlines,” Amokwu said.