In recent times, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has been wrestling with an unusual yet costly issue – bird strikes. The national flag carrier has suffered financial losses amounting to millions of rupees due to these incidents. Reportedly, 29 such instances have occurred at domestic airports alone in the past five months.
Insiders at PIA revealed that a surge was witnessed in May, with ten bird strikes reported thus far. Predominantly, these incidents took place at the airports in Karachi and Lahore, resulting in the damage of seven aircraft.
A recent incident involved Flight PK-310, an Airbus-320 en route from Karachi to Quetta, which encountered a bird shortly after takeoff. The pilot immediately contacted air traffic control, seeking permission for an emergency landing.
Following this episode, the passengers were escorted to the lounge, while the affected aircraft was relocated to the hangar for inspection. Examination reports revealed damage to six blades of the plane’s engine.
A PIA spokesperson informed that the passengers scheduled for the Karachi-Quetta flight were accommodated on an alternate aircraft due to the delay in the original plane’s repair.
As part of its efforts to tackle this pressing issue, the PIA administration has collated and released data on bird strikes for the past five months.
This month alone recorded ten such incidents across various airports, including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Peshawar, Gilgit, and Multan.
A significant portion of these bird strikes – a total of 16 – occurred at the Karachi and Lahore airports. Over the past five months, bird strikes have also affected PIA planes overseas, specifically in Jeddah and Bahrain. Seven aircraft have suffered damage due to these incidents. However, in 22 cases, the aircraft managed to escape any damage.
The bird strikes typically happened during the approach and landing phases; three strikes occurred during takeoff and one during the takeoff roll.
Sources highlighted that bird strikes lead to hefty losses for Pakistan International Airlines, as affected aircraft are temporarily sidelined. This also results in considerable inconvenience for passengers due to flight delays or cancellations as the aircraft undergo repairs in the hangar.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) deploys bird shooters to control the bird population in the funnel area—the site designated for takeoff and landing. A CAA spokesperson revealed that a tender has been issued for the installation of modern bird repellency systems at the country’s major airports, aiming to mitigate this issue.
The spokesperson expressed optimism that the installation process would commence shortly. Bird shooters are regularly posted at key points during flight operations to deter birds.
Environmental factors, like nearby garbage dumps, often attract birds to the airspace, posing risks to departing and landing aircraft.
The CAA has been actively raising awareness among residents living close to airports through regular banners. Special precautionary measures are undertaken during Eidul Azha to prevent bird influx, added the spokesperson.