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pilot liability

Pilot Liability: How to Avoid Bird Collisions

Drone use increases with each passing year and is having a greater impact on aviation safety. In fact, the FAA says that drone use in the United States will increase to seven million by 2020. However, to put things into perspective, the Federal Fish And Wildlife Service estimates that the U.S. bird population is 10-20 billion. Without a doubt, bird strikes pose a greater hazard. However, pilot liability can keep you worry-free if a bird does crash into your personal aircraft.

The effect of a strike depends on the bird’s size, the speed of collision, and where the impact occurs. The reason such small creatures can do so much damage to a much larger aircraft is the destructive effect of speed. The kinetic energy of an impact is proportional to the square of the speed. That’s why small bullets are so deadly when shot from a gun. With so many birds sharing the skies with airplanes, it’s a good idea to learn how to avoid avian collisions. Here are six tips:

  • Fly high. Birds rarely fly higher than 3,000 feet above the ground. A simple look at your altimeter isn’t enough because if the ground is 2,000 feet above sea level, then 4,000 feet on the altimeter isn’t high enough. Keep this in mind when ‘sightseeing’ at a low altitude.
  • Fly slow when near birds. As mentioned previously, the speed of impact accounts for much of the damage. Halving your speed drops the impact energy to one-quarter of its previous amount. In addition, birds can more easily get out of the way when your speed is less than 90 mph.
  • Don’t fly under birds. Birds instinctively go into a dive when they feel threatened. They do this because diving is the fastest way to gain speed. Fly over them when taking evasive action.
  • Large birds do the greatest damage. You can quickly assess size by their wing beat. Large birds flap their wings more slowly than small birds.
  • Beware of wildlife sanctuaries and bird feeding grounds. Landfills, fishing boats, and fish processing areas commonly draw in feeding birds. Birds also frequent shallow estuaries, inland lakes and ponds, and islands in large bodies of water.
  • Watch for birds while taking off and landing. Many airports are in prime bird habitats. Look for them before taking off and coming in for a landing. Don’t assume they’ll be scared off by your plane or will stay out of your way.

Between birds, drones, the weather, human mistakes, mechanical breakdowns, and the other myriad of hazards that pilots face, it’s a wonder they fly at all. However, those who do it recreationally are driven by their passion. These risks merely make the activity more challenging.

However, few see pilot liability as something that enhances enjoyment. In fact, some pilots don’t give it enough thought. It doesn’t matter that a lawsuit has never happened before because there’s always a first time for everything.


Physical safety shouldn’t be your only consideration. Financial safety from a litigious society is also important. Protect your assets, lifestyle, and family from catastrophic lawsuits by covering all of your liability risks. For more information about this, contact us today.