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FAA issues bulletin encouraging operators to utilize new tools to mitigate bird strikes.

By ED BROTAKVertical Magazine

On Oct. 3, the FAA issued a revised Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (SAIB) to help rotorcraft owners, operators, aircrew, and passengers understand rotorcraft bird strike safety standards.

The SAIB (AIR-21-17R, Rotorcraft Bird Strike Protection and Mitigation) introduces a voluntary Rotorcraft Safety Promotion Concept (RSPC) to “encourage the installation of safety enhancing designs, use of certain safety equipment, and adoption of operational procedures to mitigate the risk of bird strike for both Part 27 and Part 29 rotorcraft.”

Operators are encouraged to use the RSPC to learn about the design and equipment features that best fit their operational needs, available resources, and personal risk tolerances. Secondly, the SAID covers operational risk mitigation options that can keep aircraft away from bird rich environments and help prevent bird strikes.

Besides recommendations for the aircraft itself, the FAA has several recommendations under “Operational Risk Mitigation Options. ”The SAIB suggests learning about the local bird population to identify concentration patters and migration routes, reducing airspeed when practical, increasing altitude as quickly as possible and practical, and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

In terms of speed, three out of four bird strikes take place at airspeeds above 80 knots.

According to the SAIB, there is a 32 percent decrease in the likelihood of a bird strike for every 1,000 feet gained above 500 feet above ground level. And for PPE, a helmet and visor should always be worn when practical. This revised SAIB refers back to SAIB AIR-21-7, which was issued in September 2021.

Helicopter bird strike protection requirements go back to August 1996 per Amendment 29‐ 40 of 14 CFR Part 29. It required all newly-certified Part 29 rotorcraft to comply with section 29.631, which stated that rotorcraft must be able to withstand a strike from a 2.2-pound (one-kilogram) bird at a certain speed and be able to fly safely or at least land safely.

This would be accomplished by making the windshield and “flight critical components” forward of the main rotor mast strike tolerant. But this requirement would only apply to newly certified Part 29 rotorcraft.

All smaller Part 27 rotorcraft and all existing or newly manufactured Part 29 rotorcraft can meet the “same level of safety described in 14 CFR 29.631” — but are not required to do so. These actions are strongly recommended, especially for Part 27 rotorcraft which make up over 80 percent of the U.S. registered rotorcraft fleet.

With 90 percent of reported bird strikes occurring below 3,500 feet AGL, low flying helicopter operations make this a significant concern. Worst case scenarios have resulted in the incapacitation of the pilot or significant damage to a critical system component producing accidents with fatalities and loss of the aircraft.

Wildlife strikes can be reported here:


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