Many people may consider flocking birds such as sea gulls, ravens, and pigeons to be a nuisance but otherwise harmless. However, to jet aircraft and individuals carried aboard, the possibility of a bird strike poses an existential threat. For instance, when U.S. Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River in New York back in January, 2009, the subsequent investigations performed by the NTSB and FAA found that a double bird strike during take-off (one in each engine) caused the incident.
Incidents like this are well-known in the aviation world. Each year, bird strikes cause an estimated 400 million dollars worth of damage to flying aircraft with the majority of incidents inflicting destruction to aircraft windscreens or engines. To put the destructive power of bird strikes into perspective, impacting a 4 lb. (1.8kg) bird at a relative speed of 300 knots (154 m/s) imparts more kinetic energy than a .50 caliber sniper rifle round!
If a major bird strike occurs to an aircraft engine, the flight crew has only one objective in mind: safely return all passengers to the ground. Most often, safe landings require at least one or more partially operational engines. This means that aircraft engines need to be tough enough to withstand bird strikes within certain prescribed limits. They must also remain operational enough to facilitate a safe emergency landing without flying apart and potentially causing damage to other portions of the aircraft.
At NTS, our bird strike simulator is capable of launching either real birds or gelatin substitutes at speeds up to 350 knots (400 mph). For this reason, this testing apparatus is often called a “chicken gun.”
During tests, proximity sensors provide real-time velocity measurement of each shot. Data acquisition systems capture transient shock and load data, and high-speed video equipment monitors all impacts to provide important post-event analysis. If people need to witness our testing procedures, our NTS LabInsight portal provides a venue for virtual witnessing.
At NTS, we have structures and devices that are capable of testing against bird strikes. If your certification requirements require bird strike testing of aircraft structures such as radomes, antennas, windshields, wing sections, landing gear, or anything else, contact us to discuss how we can help you meet your requirements.