The problem of bird strikes – a collision between a bird and an aircraft – is a problem airports and airlines around the world are familiar with. Therefore it has also gained the attention of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Birds and planes do not go well together, especially in the vicinity of an airport. During takeoff and landing the chances of a bird strike are highest. If a bird strike occurs, it is often fatal to the bird and often causes damage to the aircraft. Apart from that, bird strikes are also considered a threat to the safety of an aircraft.
For that reason the provinces of North-Holland, South-Holland and Utrecht in the Netherlands gave permission to kill 5,000-10,000 geese in a radius of 20 kilometres around Schiphol Airport. The Fauna Bescherming tried to challenge this decision, but the court of Haarlem ruled that the killing of the birds was necessary for the safety of aviation.
Since the problem of bird strikes is of an international nature – birds do not really care about national boundaries and can be found almost anywhere on earth – it is interesting to see to what extent the problem has been addressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN-specialized agency and established by the Chicago Convention.
Firstly, there is the 1944 Chicago Convention itself, which can be considered the basis for the regulation of international civil aviation. 191 States are currently party to the Chicago Convention, so it is safe to say that it has a worldwide scope.
According to Article 37 of the Chicago Convention, ICAO “ shall adopt and amend from time to time, as may be necessary, international standards and recommended practices and procedures dealing with: (k) … matters concerned with the safety, regularity and efficiency of air navigation…”
Even though the standards and recommended practices – which are provided in the so-called Annexes – are not part of the Chicago Convention and for that reason are not binding as such on the contracting States, Article 38 obliges States to notify ICAO if they find it impracticable to comply.
The issue of bird strikes has been addressed by ICAO in Annex 14 on Aerodromes, in which States are required to take action in order to minimize the likelihood of collisions between wildlife, including birds, and aircraft.
Furthermore ICAO itself has set up the ICAO Bird Strike Information System (IBIS), in which it collects and analyses data about bird strikes provided by States, in order to discover trends and statistical information about bird strikes that may help to limit them.
In its Airport Services Manual Part 3 (4th edition, 2011 (draft)), ICAO prescribes the creation of a National Committee and assigns specific roles for the various stakeholders, such as the civil aviation authorities, airport, and national committee.
But … in the end the implementation and enforcement of regulations is all in the hands of the individual State.
Going back to the ruling by the Haarlem court; according to ICAO, an airport should implement a bird/wildlife strike control programme, of which one element is “a process to expel or remove hazardous birds/wildlife, including by lethal means where appropriate” “if other techniques have not proved successful and there is a continuing risk of collision with aircraft.”
And what will happen to the killed geese? They will end up on our plates.