Bird strike testing

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1995:

CINCINNATI––General Electric Aircraft Engines pub-
licist Jim Stump recently contacted ANIMAL PEOPLE to set the
record straight about the methodology of bird-strike testing, the
subject of letter campaigns by various groups based on somewhat
garbled accounts in a variety of newspapers and trade publications.
The first misconception of the letter-writers, Stump
pointed out, is that GE is at liberty to halt the testing. “Bird-strike
testing is conducted, with other often rigorous testing, during the
development of a new engine,” he explained, “in accordance with
requirements established by agencies such as the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration and the International Civil Aviation
Organization. Flight safety is a primary objective, but some of the
testing relates to such matters as reducing noise and emissions.”
While the regulatory agencies still require some bird-
strike testing, GE favors the principles of reduction, refinement,
and replacement, Stump indicated. “GE Aircraft Engines pays
$15,000 annually to support and participate, with other manufac-
turers and agencies associated with the aviation industry, in the
International Bird Strike Research Group,” he wrote, “which is
trying to develop artificial birds that will be universally acceptable
for use in engine testing. Under the auspices of the Group, the
actual research on critical areas such as body density is being con-
ducted by the Central Science Laboratory, an executive agency of
Great Britain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food.”

Meanwhile, Stump emphasized, “Under no circum-
stances are live birds used in testing GE engines. Also, chickens
and turkeys are not used in our engine testing. The birds that pose
a potential problem for aircraft are primarily birds in flight, and
the conformation of chickens and turkeys is different from that of
birds that fly. Insofar as possible, GE uses gelatin ‘birds,’ espe-
cially for preliminary testing, but complies with the requirements
of the regulatory agencies when actual birds are specified. The
types and numbers of birds used in testing vary according to the
engine involved,” but a representative protocol Stump sent includ-
ed a large bird test using either a single eight-pound Canada goose
or a four-pound Mallard duck, depending on the thrust of the
engine; a medium bird test using four to six 2.5-pound herring
gulls; and a small bird test, using six to eight 1.5-pound
California gulls.
“More rarely,” Stump added, “engines are required to
pass testing that involves 15 four-ounce starlings.”
The birds are acquired as frozen carcasses. “GE Aircraft
Engines holds both a federal and a State of Ohio scientific collect-
ing permit,” Stump said, “and obtains the geese, ducks, and
gulls through the Animal Damage Control Program of the USDA
and the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the
Interior.” Some have been killed as purported nuisances, some are
roadkills, and a few are confiscated from poachers, but one of the
biggest recent purchases involved “approximately 100 Canada
geese,” who “died as the result of consuming lead shot that accu-
mulated in a marshy area behind a skeet and trap-shooting range.”
Starlings, Stump said, come from “a licensed private
supplier.”
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