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After Eastern Airlines Flight 375 Crashed In 1960, Dark Feathers Were Found Inside Three Of The Plane’s Engines, Sparking An Investigation By The “Feather Detective”

e_serebryakova - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

Among ornithologists, there is no figure more prominent than Roxie Laybourne. In the mid-1940s, Laybourne started working as a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian Institution.

During World War II, she was tasked with identifying the remains of birds that had collided with military aircraft, which was something she was very interested in studying.

In the scientific community, Laybourne was known as the woman who pioneered the field of forensic ornithology. Her research in the identification of feathers revolutionized aviation safety.

Laybourne took on her first birdstrike case in 1960. When Eastern Airlines Flight 375 crashed into the Boston Harbor, killing more than 60 people, she was consulted for her expertise. Officials had found bits of dark feathers inside three of the plane’s engines and wanted to know what kind of bird the aircraft had hit.

She concluded that the feathers were from a European starling, a bird weighing only three ounces. The plane had flown right into a flock of them.

As the airline industry continued to grow, Laybourne’s skills were in demand. She became known as the “feather lady.” She also developed a meticulous system called the “Roxie method,” which allowed investigators to determine the causes of bird strikes more accurately.

The four-step process is still in use today. The first step is to look at all the available evidence and consider the time of year and location in which the bird strike took place.

Next, the feathers must be washed and dried. The third step calls for an examination of the feather microstructure.

Finally, the species of the bird can be confirmed. Identifying birds that collide with planes helps experts improve aviation safety standards and reduce the risk of bird strikes by building more bird-resistant aircraft.

e_serebryakova – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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