(CNN) — Ten years after what came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” it’s still amazing that everyone aboard US Airways Flight 1549 survived.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of arguably the most famous emergency landing in modern aviation history.
Shortly after pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, with 154 passengers and crew, two 8-pound geese flew into each of the plane’s twin engines. Suddenly both engines weren’t working, and Sullenberger faced a gut-wrenching decision.
Despite the heightened concern, stats tracking annual US bird strikes show they have skyrocketed.
The estimated cost of all aviation bird strikes, according to the European Space Agency, is more than $1 billion a year.
If you need more evidence that birds crashing into airplanes is a relatively common part of modern air travel, just look at the headlines.
Even the vice president of the United States has been affected.
Birds + planes = ‘snarge’
When airplanes and birds collide, you often get “snarge.”
Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution came up with the term to describe tissue and gooey remains that are still attached to aircraft after a collision, said bird strike expert Mike Begier, who took part in the investigation of Flight 1549.
In 2016, Begier, who is national coordinator of the Airport Wildlife Hazards Program at the US Department of Agriculture, told CNN that he’ll never forget looking closely at the blades of Flight 1549’s engines. In addition to snarge, “you could see the feather remains,” Begier said. The engine was hot at the time of impact, “so a lot of this stuff was sort of baked — if you will. It had gotten hard.”
Mike Begier, national coordinator of the USDA Airport Wildlife Hazards Program investigates bird strike remains inside a damaged engine of US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009.
The big lesson learned from Flight 1549, Begier said, was, “It can happen. It was no longer an abstraction. We almost had that catastrophic event with the Miracle on the Hudson, but obviously there was a highly skilled crew on that plane and that did not happen.”
Now, with heightened awareness and better airport management of wildlife, Begier said another bird strike as terrifying as Flight 1549 is perhaps a little less likely.
There aren’t necessarily that many more strikes occurring, he said. The number of reported bird strikes went up in part because the aviation community is paying more attention. People are reporting strikes more often.
Also, bird strikes that resulted in damaged aircraft are decreasing at larger airports.
The most effective way to force birds away from airports is to take away their habitat, Dickey said in 2016.
“Wildlife is going to come in for three reasons: food, water or shelter,” he explained. Remove those and you’ll force birds to go elsewhere.
Emerging technology may provide other tools. The FAA has spent more than 10 years trying to perfect special radar that detects birds. It has struggled to track birds because they’re fairly small, but experts said the FAA has been improving it.
Jet engine manufacturers have tried to design screens to protect engine intakes from birds, but so far, experts say nothing has worked well enough to be practical due to air-flow and excessive weight issues.
Industry lobby organization Airlines for America said in a 2016 statement that pilots for its members “undergo extensive flight training” which includes “preventative strategies.”
Sullenberger’s former employer US Airways has merged with American Airlines, which said in a statement this week that “bird strike preparation for our pilots is an important and standard component of training.”
Achieving zero bird strikes at airports would be difficult, if not impossible, but the goal would be trying to get as close to zero as possible, said Begier. “We can set benchmarks — and that’s actually a discussion that’s going on in the airport community right now.”
Experts say focusing on effective wildlife management and pilot training will go a long way toward preventing future incidents like Flight 1549. The outcome of the next bird strike emergency may not be as miraculous.
CNN’s Aaron Cooper contributed to this report.