Bird Strike vs. Pilot Error on Aircraft

This project was to determine if a bird strike on the wing of a small single-engine general aviation aircraft was sufficient to result in a loss of control and crash or if it resulted from the actions of the pilot.  This required an accurate determination of the flight path and parameters of the aircraft up until the time of the accident.  The analysis also required a detailed understanding of the aerodynamic effects on the damage on the wing that occurred as a result of the bird impact.

The flight path and performance parameters of the aircraft were determined from the recorded radar data and ESi-developed aircraft flight path reconstruction software.  The amount of damage on the wing was determined from examining the wreckage and mapping out the pattern of the wing deformation.  An assessment on the effect on the aerodynamics and stall characteristics was performed using wind tunnel testing to compare lift and drag data for a normal wing and a wing with representative damage.  

The analysis and wind tunnel testing revealed that the bird strike damage would have not resulted in an accident had the pilot not have slowed below stall while attempting to turn relatively close the ground.  The case was settled very favorable for our client.

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