Bird Strike - The Crash Of The Boston Electra

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

BIRD STRIKE, by Michael N. Kalafatas, is a riveting account of New England's first major air disaster--the 1960 crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 375 into the waters of Boston Harbor, minutes after takeoff from Logan Airport. The plane went down when it collided with a huge swarm of starlings that disabled three of its four jet engines. Because of the quick action and skilled seamanship of the locals (aided by air-sea rescue teams), ten of the 72 passengers' lives were saved.

The "bird strike" that caused the tragic crash was not an isolated incident, an unfortunate piece of luck. "The possibility of loss of human life due to bird strike has never been greater than now," explains the author. "Whether we take to the air in a wood-and-cloth biplane or by way of a rocket full of the newest technology, bird life will always be in our path. Our flyways are their flyways. There is no way around that fact, and we must find ways to live with it."

Kalafatas sounds an important alarm in BIRD STRIKE. As he points out, "420 planes have been destroyed and more than 400 people have been killed by bird and other wildlife strikes, making them the second-leading cause of aviation-related fatalities." Although many steps have been taken by the airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration and other similar organizations, to control wildlife hazards at airports, it remains an ongoing problem.

"Many airports, especially hub airports, are themselves small cities that offer ideal habitats for bird life: open grassy areas with water and food, no cats or dogs--in other words, safe, open places in otherwise crowded urbanized space."

On top of that, "There has been a shift in the U.S. commercial fleet away from planes powered by four jet engines to planes powered by two jet engines," Kalafatas continues. "It is far easier for a flock of bids to destroy engine power on a two-jet airliner than a three- or four-jet airliner. As NASA engineers well know, redundancy of systems can save lives."

Fortunately, people such as air safety consultant John Goglia and pilot Capt. Sully "Miracle on the Hudson" Sullenberger, both of whom are profiled in BIRD STRIKE, are doing their valiant best to alert the American public to the mounting danger of lethal bird strikes upon large airliners.

With the publication of BIRD STRIKE, Kalafatas' name deserves to be added to that list of authentic American heroes.

(University Press of New England, $24.95 cloth)