Sameera ArshadSameera Arshad is a 2009 Commonwealth Split-site Scholar from Pakistan, completing her PhD on Birds and Aircraft Strike Hazards (University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, and the Food and Environment Research Agency, UK). Bird and aircraft collisions are extremely dangerous and pose a real threat for passenger safety. The Convention on International Civil Aviation, a UN Specialised Agency, insists there is a need to adopt measures to inhibit birds from interfering with aircraft operations. The worldwide annual loss attributed to these collisions is US $1.2 billion, making Sameer’s research all the more important.

When Sameera began her PhD in 2009 she faced several impediments. Data on hazardous bird species and their habitats around Pakistani airports were unavailable. Other obstacles she faced were a lack of resources, experts, political and economic factors. Sameera’s PhD started with implementing a baseline study to identify the bird species near Pakistani fly zones. She also evaluated management techniques at the Islamabad International Airport.

Sameera’s UK host was the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) in York. She worked in the Bird Management Unit within the Department of Wildlife Management. Her studies involved visiting London Stansted and Heathrow Airports to learn about airfield ecology, bird hazard management and bird remains identification. Other essential airport technologies that Sameera used included bird detection radar and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Sameera utilised these technologies to research habitat and migratory patterns. She developed bird strike avoidance models, GIS services, and bird mortality risk analyses. FERA provided an ideal base, as it has hosted courses that were specially designed for bird control staff at airports and airbases in the UK.

Sameera also spent time in Germany in the Biology Section of the Bundeswehr Geoinformation Office. This office is responsible for bird strike reduction policy practiced by the German Air Force. Sameera observed techniques to monitor birds in flight at different distances and unique German applications like the BIRDTAM-System that provides real time bird migration warnings. She also visited the central military weather forecasting centre to witness the Bird Strike Risk Forecast System, a modelling approach that incorporates analysis of weather forecasts and military bird strike data.

Sameera’s scholarship has enabled her to contribute to passenger safety in Pakistan, and to engage actively in the international research community. In September 2010 Sameera represented Pakistan at the 29th annual International Bird Strike Conference in Cairns, Australia. The conference featured over a dozen presentations including new research on commercial aviation. Sameera presented a paper on her experience with managing bird strikes in Pakistan.

Currently, as she finishes her PhD, Sameera provides consultancy services to the Pakistan Air Force Safety Management Centre at the Air Headquarters in Islamabad. Her knowledge of bird strikes is helping the Pakistani Air Force authorities manage the growing threat to aviation safety by bird populations. Sameera’s work on causes of bird strikes has been utilised by the Pakistan Ministry of Defence and incorporated into the Bird Hazard Management Plan. Sameera also aids the Civil Aviation Authority and the Directorate of Flight Safety. She presents seminars on ‘Bird Hazard Management at Airports’ to help these organisations decrease the number of bird and plane collisions and to improve passenger safety.