Flying in the Time of Cicadas | Aviation

Airplanes and cicadas are not a good mix.

They make a mess when they hit the windscreen. They are distracting when they swarm you as you are trying to do a preflight inspection of the airplane. And sometimes, they can get into the equipment and make it fail.

Over the weekend the crew of a Challenger 350 at John C. Tune Airport (KJWN) in Nashville, Tennessee, was having difficulty starting its engines. The aircraft was hooked up to an auxiliary power unit (APU), which is designed to assist with engine start. But, according to Blake Love, co-founder of Mansa Aero, although the APU was operating, it was not able to start the aircraft.

USDA Forest Service map showing cicada brood emergence April to May 2024 in the eastern United States. The areas in red show where Brood XIII, a 17-year brood, is expected to emerge. The areas in blue show where Brood XIX, a 13-year brood, is expected to emerge. The area in yellow shows where these brood emergences are expected to overlap in Illinois. [graphic: USDA Forest Service]

Love and Mansa co-founder Andrew Warwick both checked to see what the problem was.

“We put a borescope down the APU and found it full of cicadas. They blocked the airflow,” Love said. “We have never seen anything like it. We have 20 years of experience between the two of us and this was a first.”

Cicadas are flying insects that spend most of their life…


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