Bird Strikes Prompt Wildlife Hazard Plan

 - April 30, 2012, 4:40 PM

Delta Flight 1063’s bird-strike-induced emergency at New York’s JFK airport last week, as well as US Airways Flight 1549’s splashdown in the same city’s Hudson River in 2009 after both engines flamed out due to bird ingestion, quickly became high-profile stories.

But there are thousands of bird strikes with aircraft every year that never get media attention. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spokesman told AIN that 10,090 bird strikes with aircraft were reported last year. Like most airports, University Park Airport (KUNV) in State College, Pa., is working on the problem.

After an Air Wisconsin Canadair RJ sustained substantial damage following an encounter with a flight of starlings just after takeoff in 2006, the FAA suggested that UNV develop a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved, wildlife-hazard assessment to quantify the risk to aircraft within a five-mile radius, an action typical at most airports. The study initially discovered substantial flocks of 15,000 to 20,000 starlings roosting near the airport’s 6,700-foot runway. The USDA eventually removed the birds.

However, starlings were not UNV’s only problem. In 2010, a 2.5-pound mallard duck crashed through the nose of an Eclipse 500 very light jet on take of from the central Pennsylvania airport.

FAA and USDA last week approved the next step in UNV’s Wildlife Hazard Management Plan to mitigate the risk of collisions between ducks and aircraft. An earlier phase had attempted to educate local residents about their potential contribution to the problem by feeding ducks in a nearby pond. University Park Airport Director Bryan Rodgers told AIN, “Those efforts were not successful [and] the next step is to begin rubbing food-grade corn oil on duck eggs to prevent embryos from forming.” View a USDA video about bird mitigation.