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Bird Strike - The Effect of the Leading Edge Radius on the Behavior of the Bird Upon Impact

PI Alberto Mello

This project is in partnership with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation under MMSE program.

Birds pose a major threat to aviation. Bird impact can lead to significant damage of the aircraft and can be sometimes catastrophic. For a damage tolerant design of an aircraft structure, the structure has to fulfill the airworthiness specifications prescribed by FAA or EASA. 

According to FAR 25, Sub-part 25.571, leading-edge structures of large transport aircraft have to withstand an impact with a 4 lb (1.81 kg) bird (8 lb (3.62kg) for empennage leading edge) when the velocity of the airplane relative to the bird along the airplane's flight path is equal to its cruising speed (Vc) at sea level or 0.85 (Vc) at 8,000 feet, whichever is more critical.

When a bird impacts the structure, it either slides off of the impacted surface causing less damage or it creates a dent or hole due to penetration into the structure, causing significant damage. The behavior of the bird upon the impact depends on the geometrical characteristics of the structure and the velocity at which the bird impacts. When split upon impact, it results in low impact forces and thus less damage. The impact forces are higher when the bird doesn’t split upon the impact which causes more damage to the target structure as the impact forces are directly proportional to the mass of the bird.

Bird strike tests are very expensive and their number in the engine development programs should be minimized. Numerical simulations help reduce a significant amount of testing by providing valuable information in the design process. This thesis aims to develop a model using smooth particle hydrodynamics (SPH) method for analyzing aircraft leading edges for bird strikes that will correlate well with the test results and subsequently, apply the method to study the effect of the leading edge radius on the behavior of the bird (split/not split) upon the impact.

The objective is to generate sufficient data through numerical analysis to confirm the “one inch radius split/no split dividing line”, and to validate the empirical formulas used to calculate the impact forces. Overall, the goal is to save both time and money for the future generation aircraft by minimizing or eliminating the bird strike tests. 

Research Dates

08/16/2021 to 05/15/2022


  • Alberto Mello Jr.
    Aerospace Engineering Department
    Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin
  • James J Pembridge
    Engineering Fundamentals
    Ph.D., M.A., B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Tags: Bird Strike Impact Bird Ingestion Finite Element Analysis Hydrodynamics

Categories: Graduate