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BIRDSTRIKE could pose a fatal' risk to air passengers flying out of an airport proposed for the Tha

PUBLISHED: 15:06 21 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 25 August 2010

WARNING: George Crozer.

WARNING: George Crozer.

BIRDSTRIKE could pose a fatal risk to air passengers flying out of an airport proposed for the Thames estuary, an expert warned.

BIRDSTRIKE could pose a 'fatal' risk to air passengers flying out of an airport proposed for the Thames estuary, an expert warned.

The miraculous survival of 155 passengers forced to ditch in the Hudson River, Manhattan, last Friday raised fears of building a replacement airport in the South East.

The North Kent Marshes, adjacent to the sea where some would like to see a large offshore airport built, is an internationally protected migratory stop for birds.

Kieron Daily, executive editor of Flight, said: "We're seeing in some particular areas where there are large resident or migratory birds the hazard is markedly increased.

"A significant number of birdstrikes cause accidents, and indeed fatal accidents.

"We've seen recently not just the US incident, but a Ryanair aircraft that flew into a flock of starlings in November was extremely lucky to land safely."

The North Kent Marshes are visited by as many as 300,000 migratory birds a year on top of its resident population, according to Friends of North Kent Marshes.

George Crozer, their spokesman, said: "It's dangerous - people don't really realise how dangerous this is.

"We're not talking about sparrows living here, we're talking about geese and swan-sized birds, certainly big enough to bring down an airplane."

In 2007 1,299 UK birdstrikes were reported to the CAA. Last year 1,233 were counted by September.

The Civil Aviation Authority named birdstrike a 'key area of safety concern'. Aircraft are required to be able to withstand hitting a number of 5.5 lbs birds.

Crew aboard the US Airbus A320 said a flock of birds flew into them, leaving their quick thinking captain, no choice other than a crash landing.

The near miss in New York came days after the Department for Transport gave the green light to controversial third runway at Heathrow.

The expansion would allow flights to rise by 302,000 a year according to pressure group HACAN Clearskies.

Huge cross-party opposition to the scheme has led Beckenham MP Jacqui Lait to suspect the UK's aircraft hub will never see its planned expansion.

She told the Times: "It is fully likely that it won't go ahead, considering we are within 18 months of a general election."

A four-lane estuary airport could provide an alternative to Heathrow expansion.

Greenwich and Woolwich MP Nick Raynsford is recruiting a cross party parliamentary committee to investigate the possibility of an off-shore airport.

Planes could take off over water instead of homes, reducing noise for Londoners.

London Mayor Boris Johnson supports the scheme but admitted it is 'a bit of a long shot'.

The Department for Transport held a consultation on a possible airport amongst the marshes at Cliffe, near Gravesend, in 2001.

The idea was thrown out for, amongst other reasons, being "more hazardous than virtually all airports currently operating in the UK" due to birdstrike.

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