TODAY

TODAY   |  September 23, 2013

Rise in airplane bird strikes threatens flight safety

More than 11,000 birds struck airplanes in 2012, a number that has airport officials scrambling to keep the dangerous strikes to a minimum. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>> to turn to the risk posed to commercial airplanes and all that ride in them by birds. it's a threat driven home by the miracle on the hudson river , a landing more than four years ago. tom costello is at reagan national airport this morning. tom, what can you tell us?

>> good morning. this is a time of year when migrating birds can pose a serious risk to aircraft. the safety on the planes depends on the effort to get birds out of the way.

>> reporter: rare video of a flock of birds flying straight into the engine of a passenger plane. bird strikes happen nearly every day in the nation's skies damaging planes and on very rare occasions bringing a plane down. the canada geese strike that took out the engines of a u.s. airways airbus in 2009 was a big wake up call . since then, the number of bird strikes have soared. atlanta reported 100 in 2012 . up 45% in four years. 251 at chicago o'hare. 119 at l.a.x., 180 at jfk and 124 at san francisco .

>> most airports are ignoring the problems and hoping nothing happens.

>> bird strike control expert says it's a matter of time before a single bird strike costs a lot of people their lives. the greatest risk, the fly zones on the east and west coast and the mississippi river .

>> the size is trieright, the color is right.

>> reporter: from airports anxious to identify the type of birds hitting planes at their airports.

>> if you know what the birds are you know what to do to keep them away, you can really reduce the risk.

>> reporter: at boston logan airport , they take the bird threat very seriously, sitting right on boston harbor , sea gulls , ducks, geese, owls and falcons are a constant threat. full time wildlife technicians use cannons, shotguns, noise makers, and grow the grass to just the right height to keep away both geese and rodents that attract them.

>> when you look at that and eliminate them to deter species from being here.

>> not every airport is as proactive. the faa instructed them to immediately address a threat posed by gulls and ducks. they say it's instituted enhanced wildlife training for airport inspectors nationwide that will provide better evaluation and oversight. but he says many airports have a lot more to do.

>> wildlife is wild for a real reason. you need to adapt and change to it. and something that may work today or early in the morning may not work later on in the day.

>> yeah, nick carter is a big fan of dogs on