Local Efforts To Manage Bird Populations Near Airports

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday's emergency landing in New York could have ended much like the Piatt crash, if it weren't for the pilot's quick thinking on preventing tragedy after a flock of geese crashed into his engines.

Mid-Continent and McConnell Air Force Base, like every other airport, must keep geese and other birds from flying too near the planes.

As the director of operations at Wichita's airports, Brad Christopher monitors efforts to keep birds away from planes during take-off and landing.

The FAA requires airports to manage wildlife. They use means to haze, harass and otherwise chase birds from the area.

The miracle on the Hudson brings the bird strike issue to the forefront.

There were 80,000 bird strikes for civil aviation between 1999 and 2007. But it's believed that only about 20% of actual bird strikes get reported.

"There's still no cause for major alarm or distress over this. These things happen and have been happening since airplanes began flying," Christopher said.

Across town at McConnell, a border collie named Jet and his handler Lauren Caister work together to try to keep birds, especially Canada Geese, from the airspace around the Air Force base.

"We use Jet a lot at this time of the year to keep geese away from the base and the surrounding lands," Caister said.

Once the geese learn that there is a predator in the habitat, they eventually stop coming back.

The miracle on the Hudson illustrates why these measures are important.

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