Over the past 24 years, aircraft flown by the Air Force have sustained more than 100,000 bird strikes, according to data provided by the service.
And those 105,586 wildlife strikes since 1995 have inflicted a hefty toll. The Air Force has lost 13 aircraft due and recorded 27 deaths due to strikes in that period, according to Josh Aycock, spokesman for the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
The total cost of these strikes, excluding the cost of injuries: $817,546,884.
The effect of such wildlife strikes can be seen in a photo posted on the unofficial Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco earlier this month. The picture shows the grisly remains of a hawk wedged into the structure of an F-16 from the 49th Wing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The hawk struck the F-16 during a routine landing there on April 17.
49th Wing spokeswoman 2nd Lt. Jasmine Manning identified that bird as a Swainson’s hawk in an email to Marine Corps Times earlier this month. Manning said that after a bird strike occurs, its remains are sent to the Smithsonian to classify the bird and figure out how it was struck.
A bird strike also killed four airmen aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk flying above the United Kingdom on Jan. 7, 2014. A flock of geese hit the helicopter’s windshield, knocked out the pilot and copilot, and disabled the systems that could have stabilized the aircraft, causing it to crash.
Canadian geese are the biggest and most costly culprit. Between fiscal 1995 and fiscal 2016, Canadian geese alone were responsible for $93.8 million in damage to aircraft, the Air Force said last year.
Black vultures are the second most-damaging bird, inflicting nearly $75.7 million in damage during that 21-year time span. Pink-footed geese, American white pelicans and turkey vultures followed, causing damage totaling $43.3 million, $41.8 million and $37.8 million, respectively.
The Air Force tracks data on wildlife strikes in its Air Force Safety Automated System, or AFSAS.
Marine Corps Times reporter Shawn Snow contributed to this report.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.