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Airport bird patrol: Paintball, lasers and fake grass
01:53 - Source: CNN

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Collisions between birds and planes rising, but expert says "We're doing better"

Bird collisions with aircraft cost $1 billion yearly and are blamed for more than 250 deaths

CNN  — 

Seven years after what came to be known as the “Miracle on the Hudson,” it’s still amazing that everyone aboard US Airways Flight 1549 survived.

Shortly after pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport in 2009 with 154 passengers and crew, two eight-pound geese flew into each of the plane’s twin engines. Suddenly both engines weren’t working and Sullenberger faced a gut-wrenching decision.

He had to choose between trying to reach an airport runway, or attempting a daring water landing. As we now know, Sullenberger aimed for the Hudson River – which investigators eventually said was the only choice he could have made that would have saved the plane.

Hollywood’s version of Sullenberger’s remarkable story premiers in theaters across America this weekend, offering a disturbing reminder to air travelers: We’re not the only creatures in the sky.

Related story: ‘Sully’ takes off with Tom Hanks as ‘Miracle’ pilot

The near-disaster raised awareness about aircraft bird strikes and prompted National Transportation Safety Board investigators to warn airports “to take action to mitigate wildlife hazards before a dangerous event occurs.”

Despite the heightened concern, recent stats tracking annual US bird strikes show they have skyrocketed.

Federal Aviation Administration bird strike reports in 2014 rose to a record 13,688, topping the previous year by 20%. The nation’s No. 1 bird-strike airport: Denver International.

Preliminary figures suggest the approximate number of civil aviation bird strikes for 2015 will rise to a new high, just shy of 14,000.

“Only about 7% of those are actually damaging events – out of that entire 14,000 – spread out across the entire year,” said Mike Begier, national coordinator of the Airport Wildlife Hazards Program at the US Department of Agriculture.

aircraft bird strikes chart

Read the 2014 FAA bird strike report

Global deaths since 1988 blamed on bird strikes and other wildlife collisions number more than 250, according to the Bird Strike Committee, a collaboration between the USDA, the Pentagon and the FAA. The estimated cost of all aviation bird strikes, according to the European Space Agency, is more than $1 billion a year.

Bird strike on Air Force Two

If you need more evidence that birds crashing into airplanes is a relatively all-too-common part of modern air travel, just look at the headlines.

Top US bird strike airports

1. Colorado: Denver International 2. Texas: Dallas/Fort Worth International 3. Illinois: Chicago O’Hare International 4.