Bird strikes cost aviation industry billions per year
“First and foremost, and where I spend most of my time, is mitigating hazardous wildlife attractants on and near the airport,” Osmek says.
He makes sure that the airport has few open wetlands, and with the few it does have, the airport removes the open water by planting dense vegetation. That impedes waterfowl from landing.
Osmek has a different tactic for storm water ponds. The bottom of these has a plastic liner to prevent vegetation from growing and netting on top to keep birds out.
Sea-Tac uses the usual tactics to scare birds away: pyrotechnics, noise-making devices and a green laser light. But Sea-Tac, the first U.S. airport to employ a full-time wildlife biologist, still comes up with creative ways to combat bird strikes.
Osmek runs a remote control airboat with a fake coyote on the front to frighten birds in the open wetlands.
Raptors such as eagles do a lot of damage to aircraft, so Sea-Tac uses a Swedish goshawk trap that also has a texting feature. The trap works by having pigeons down below in a cage, protected from above by any raptor that will try to grab it. The raptor comes to a box above it, landing on a trigger device that closes the trap doors.
When a raptor is trapped, a text alerts the airport. The goshawk trap has been used around the world for years, but Sea-Tac added the texting feature in 2011.
The trapped birds ride on the airport buses for free, traveling to Northwestern Washington Forest to be released into the wild. Sea-Tac has moved 500 birds with its trap, Osmek says.
“That, along with the texting trap, has really revolutionized the way we move birds out of here,” he says.
Singapore Changi Airport has a 12-member wildlife management team that conducts daily patrols to monitor the movements of birds and other animals. Mynas, sparrows, egrets, crows and kites are common in Singapore.
“With some 600 hectares of turf, the presence of water bodies and its close proximity to wooded areas and the coast, Changi Airport is a natural sanctuary to a variety of birds and other forms of wildlife,” a Changi Airport Group spokesperson says. “All bird sightings are recorded to identify hotspots, which will be even more closely monitored.”
Changi broadcasts bird distress calls and puts anti-perching devices on railings nears the runways and taxiways
“At the airside, besides having covered dustbins that prevent birds from foraging for food, airport personnel are forbidden from consuming food and beverages,” the spokesperson says. “No fruit-bearing trees or plants that attract animals are planted within the airport as well.”
Managing bird strikes is a never-ending job for the many airports across the world.
Allan says novel solutions to reduce bird numbers on the airfield are always in development.
“It’s a bit like developing the better mousetrap, as it were,” he says. “There will always be a problem, but we’ll just get more and more sophisticated about how we deal with it.”
Airports must actively reduce the threat of bird strikes, but banishing the birds altogether is not an option, Gamper of ACI says.
“You’ll never get rid of them, and it’s not only a possibility – it’s not desirable for environmental and ethical reasons,” he says. “What you have to do is try and modify the animal’s behavior and try and get them out of the critical safety zones where the aircraft are operating.”
Image caption: A wildlife management team member at Singapore Changi Airport watches for birds.