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ToR RMT.0726

Rotorcraft occupant safety in the event of a bird strike

Bird strikes that cause damage to rotorcraft or harm their occupants (passengers or pilots) are random events. Several factors are involved, including the intersection of bird and rotorcraft flight paths, the mass of the bird, and the part of the rotorcraft struck by the bird.

During the last decade, there has been an upward trend in the number of bird strikes to the rotorcraft windshield area with significant impact forces. Such bird strikes, in some cases, directly endangered the rotorcraft occupants and increased the risk to safe operations. Bird penetration into the cockpit and cabin areas has become growingly common, elevating the probability of serious or fatal injuries to occupants. Moreover, in numerous cases, a bird directly impacting the pilot led to partial or complete incapacitation of the pilot, often raising the risk of rotorcraft loss of control, and consequent fatalities. All these risks can be managed:

  • by controlling the design and testing of the rotorcraft, which is driven by the related certification specifications;
  • by promoting operational mitigating recommendations (e.g. on speed limitations, the rotorcraft’s flight profile); and
  • to a limited extent, by reducing bird populations near operation sites.

The specific objective of this rulemaking task is to improve rotorcraft occupant safety in the event of a bird strike. This objective can be achieved:

  • by introducing a new risk-based certification specification to prevent windshield penetration on small rotorcraft (CS-27) with higher passenger capacities; the specification may be similar to CS 29.631 for safe landing, but would only be applicable to the windshield; (Subtask 1); and
  • if assessed to be necessary, through a proportionate retroactive application of bird strike certification specifications to the existing rotorcraft fleets and/or to the future production of already type-certified rotorcraft (Subtask 2).