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India Issues Fresh Guidelines To Prevent Bird Strikes

On Friday, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued new guidelines to airport operators on dealing with wildlife. This comes in the backdrop of a significant rise in wildlife-related aircraft incidents in the country. The regulator has asked operators to ensure that such incidents are curtailed humanely while following all relevant wildlife preservation laws.

The DGCA order reads,

“When an effort to manipulate wildlife behavior and discourage them from coming too close to the aerodrome fails, different techniques needs to be employed which may involve trapping and releasing them in a new location. Aerodrome operators must ensure that they are complaint with all state’s and local body’s rules and regulations regarding the wildlife species in question, and that they carry out removals in a humane manner.”

New guidelines

The DGCA has asked airport operators to follow a set of instructions aimed at mitigating bird strikes and other wildlife encounters with aircraft. These include drawing up and implementing a habitat management programme to reduce the number of hazardous wildlife, performing risk assessment procedures, and recording bird activity around airports.

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Monsoon season in India increases the chances of bird strikes. Photo: New Delhi Airport

The aviation watchdog has also asked for sporadic patrols to be carried out “so that the wildlife do not ‘learn’ or become accustomed to the timing of patrols.” In addition, regular surveillance along with routine patrols must be performed by airport staff to record data of bird movements. This data will be used to identify potential patterns and high-risk areas where more frequent patrolling is necessary.

Once all this has been done, operators are also required to set up effective communication mechanisms to notify pilots in case of significant wildlife activity in the premises or vicinity of the aerodrome.

My take

While working towards minimizing wildfire-related incidents such as bird strikes is a welcome step, the DGCA falls short of conveying explicit instructions to airport operators in the matter. The recent orders can be called general suggestions, while what Indian aviation needs is strict rules and regulations in this domain.

At the same time, it is also understandable why the DGCA has refrained from issuing a standard set of rules for all airports in the country. Different regions in India are home to different species of wildlife, some of which may need better handling than others. In such a situation, it sounds like a better idea to delegate responsibilities to airport operators at the cost of nationwide standardization.

Especially during the monsoon season, the Indian subcontinent is extremely susceptible to bird strikes. Back in June, two Delhi-bound flights suffered bird strikes on the same day, highlighting the issue to the DGCA.

The DGCA needs to do more in this regard. Photo: Getty Images

The August 12th order is definitely a step in the right direction, but much remains to be done in this regard. The DGCA has asked all operators to submit a progress report with recorded data on the 7th of every month. It will be interesting to see which airports comply with the regulator’s guidelines next month.

What do you make of the DGCA’s new guidelines relating to wildlife incidents around airports? Do you think the regulator is doing enough to prevent such incidents? Please, share your thoughts in the comments.

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