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Apr 18, 2015

Blue lights may stop bird-plane crashes

Photo above: Oleksly Maksymenko / Corbis                                             Grackle photo by BarrytheBirder
An online story in the Daily Mail reports that covering aircraft in blue lights, and only turning them on when taking off, could help stop birds colliding with aircraft.   A study led by scientists at Purdue University in Indiana found that cowbirds noticed blue light most readily, so a model aircraft was outfitted in this colour.   When the plane was stationary, the birds became alert more quickly when the lights were on.   But when the model aircraft approached the birds with its lights off, their response slowed and they only became more alert when the lights were turned on.   Moreover, the birds were more likely to get out of the way of the aircraft when the lights were pulsing, rather than being continuous.   When the plane approached them with its lights off, their response slowed.   The authors of the study say runways could be synced with aircraft to alert birds of incoming aircraft and avoid collisions.   Also, the lights could be off during taxiing but on during take-offs to alert the birds to move out of the way and thus avoid collisions.   The study suggests also that their methods could also help birds avoid collisions with buildings and wind turbines by also covering them in blue lights.   The number of accidents involving civilian aircraft is low, estimated at one fatal accident in one billion flying hours.   I think any improvement, of course, would be worth the time and money and effort.
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