According to a Science Watch article in The New York Times published in the 1990’s, International Wildlife magazine claimed that NH painted eyes on 26 of its Boeing 747 and 767 in a controlled experiment and left the rest of its fleet without the fake eyes. At the end of the one-year test period, each of the engines adorned with painted eyes had an average of just one bird collision. However, an average of nine birds had struck each unpainted engine.
And today, the tradition carries on with all new aircraft painted in the same manner. Bird strikes are a significant threat to flight safety and have caused a number of accidents with human casualties. There are over 13,000 bird strikes annually in the US alone. The first reported bird strike was by Orville Wright in 1905.
Two years prior to the announcement, NH discovered that by having menacing-looking eyes painted on the engine intakes of its jet aircraft frighten away birds and prevents collisions.
All-Nippon Airways estimated that the reduction in bird strikes during the testing period reduced the damage from $910,000 US to $720,000 US on its aircraft. NH, therefore, decided to paint eyes on all of its large-body aircraft.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that bird strikes cost US aviation US$400m annually and have resulted in more than 200 deaths worldwide since 1988.
In addition, UK’s Central Science Laboratory estimates that worldwide, the cost of bird strikes to airlines is around US$1.2bn annually. This cost includes direct costs of repair and lost opportunities for revenue while the damaged aircraft is out of service. In 2003 there were 4,300 bird strikes listed by the United States Air Force and 5,900 by U.S. civil aircraft, estimating that 80% of bird strikes are unreported.
The number of major civil aircraft accidents involving bird collisions is quite low, and it has been estimated that in one billion (109) flying hours, there is only about 1 accident resulting in human death.
The Federal Aviation Authority counted 177,269 wildlife strike reports on civil aircraft between 1990 and 2015, growing 38% in seven years from 2009 to 2015. Birds accounted for 97% of the reports.
Curiously, the Canada goose has been rated as the third most dangerous wildlife species to aircraft with around 240 goose-aircraft collisions per year just in the United States.