Planes Don’t Often Hit Deer, But When They Do, It Hurts

Since the FAA released its Bird Strike database last spring, we’ve had a lot of fun working with the data. We put some of the interactive visualizations online so you can play with the Snarge data too.

Snarge is a noun describing "the feathered leftovers after the flight paths of a bird and a plane intersect." One of our favorite blogs, the Cranky Flier, ran with the story. Several comments on Cranky’s post come from pilots, from whom we heard gems like this one:

"I have hit many birds while flying. I always feel bad about it, but not once has my plane had anything worse than a small divet. I even hit a hawk while flying cargo and nothing came of it."

While putting the Snarge visualizations up we got the chance to explore a really interesting data set and come up with findings like the one in the title. Technically, it’s a wildlife strike database, which is how we were able to find out that while deer strikes are a rare occurrence relative to bird strikes,

  • There is a high chance of damage for deer strikes (82% of deer strikes resulted in some damage, from moderate to severe).
  • The East Coast and Great Lakes regions lead the country in deer strikes.
  • As you might expect, almost all deer strikes happen on the runway: at the take-off run, landing roll, taxi or approach.

It’s a good thing that deer aren’t striking planes en route, at 10,000 feet and higher, or we’d have to seriously re-evaluate our understanding of deer. Maybe at Christmastime we’ll see more incidents en route.

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