OK, OK, so everyone's abuzz thinking that there's a smoking gun...er, talon?...coming out of today's release of raw bird-strike data from FAA.
Yes, bird strikes from a raw data perspective are up. Significantly. And we'll get to see airport-level data for the first time, so there are likely to be a few surprising airfields. But remember, this data set gets created from information reported voluntarily. That means large increases can be had just by reporting more. Most estimates put the reporting rate at about 20% of all incidents, by the by. And it's not as if we never got to see a comprehensive bird-strike database before, just not airport-level data. It's been available, publicly, for years.
The real issue for commercial aviation will be in dealing with the mass psychosis likely to result during the next few days and weeks from the "sudden" release of "new data" on bird strikes. The message needs to be, loud and clear: "Don't Panic!" Like I told KCBS radio this morning, we haven't suddenly been invaded by an army of birds, intent on bringing down U.S. aviation.
The stories that will emerge and spread virally on the Web during the next few days, however, will have that sort of breathless, conspiratorial tone: "The Most Dangerous U.S. Airports," or "Birds Of Prey: Why FAA Takes Greyhound," or maybe just "Splat." Ugh.
Now here's the fallout I'm hoping for: better funding for the wildlife strike database project at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Center; expanded examination of non-lethal technologies for dispersing birds (disrupting avian vision, for example); a reexamination of certification standards, and; an honest, open discussion about how human activities and those of wildlife are coming together more and more.
Too much to ask? You tell me. The comments box is wide open...