Crash Highlights Danger Of Bird Strikes

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bird strike testing still from a video
CBS

When it came to the cause of the crash of Flight 1549, which crash-landed in the Hudson River Thursday, it appears to have been textbook case of a bird strike.

Experts say the vast majority of collisions with birds occur at low altitude, during landing, or during takeoff. Jet engines are particularly vulnerable during takeoff when they are turning at very high speed, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

"The primary issue with birds at the airport is engine ingestion," said former National Transportation Safety Board member John Goglia.

Flocks of birds, as in the case of 1549, are considered especially dangerous and lead to multiple engine failure. That's because as birds are violently sucked into the engine and hit against the blades, those blades can rip apart resulting in catastrophic failure.

"If it gets into the core of the engine where the fuel is actually burned it can disrupt that burning of fuel and cause a loss of power and even a flame-out," Goglia said.

The amount of damage also depends on the size of the bird. To better understand bird strikes, aircraft manufacturers are known to fire chickens into engines as part of the testing and certification process.

There were more than 5,000 bird strikes in 2007, but with only about 10 percent resulted in damage.

The FAA estimates birds strikes cost airlines in the U.S. more than $600 million a year and have caused more than 200 deaths worldwide since 1988.

Today, however, thanks to the remarkable efforts of two pilots and the flight crew, that death toll failed to increase.