Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It flies, no matter the size

Ever heard of Airport Falconry, anybody?  But it is there, and at one of the biggest commercial airports in the world, to booth.

Look here:      Short film on falconry

This vid gave birth to Greg, falconer and scientist. He was soon followed by his former pupil and friend Hunter Devereaux. Mark Bowman, PAPD Cop, took a little longer to come forward, but here they are now, very alive and kicking.

This is what it's about.

Bird strike costs military and civilian aviation over $400 million a year in the US alone. The Israeli Air Force has lost more planes to collisions with birds than to enemy fire. Although it might be hard to believe that a few-pound gull or goose striking a thousands of pound aircraft might cause any fundamental damage, such collisions could have fatal consequences. Deadly bird-related accidents occur every few years. The problem is increasing worldwide as conservation efforts help to expand bird populations while at the same time general air traffic is rapidly increasing.
The most recent and most popular plane crash caused by bird strike happened on January 15th, 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 from New York's La Guardia Airport destined for Charlotte, North Carolina, hit a flock of Canada geese shortly after taking off. Both engines got disabled. Thanks to the amazing skill of Flight Captain Charles Sullenberger who managed to land the Airbus A320 on the Hudson River nobody had to die, but the dramatic pictures of the emergency ditching made their way around the whole world.

No other airport worldwide has a greater potential for bird to airplane collisions than JFK International Airport, New York. The airport borders on a bird sanctuary, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, home to more than 300 different species. Kennedy lies also directly in the path of two major migration routes along the Atlantic coastal flyway. From 1979 until late 1980ies, there have been nearly 4000 recorded incidents of birds damaging aircraft at Kennedy.

The airport tried to scare the birds away from the runways with acoustic devices such as booming propane cannons, fireworks and recorded gull distress calls. But  these measures proved of limited effect since the birds became inured to acoustic signals. Teams of marksmen were flown in by the United States Department of Agriculture. Since 1988 an average of 10.000 birds per year were shot during the nesting season March through September. Not only was this approach management expensive, it also caused a considerable amount of friction between airport security officials and National Park scientists. In 1991, the National Birdstrike Committeewas formed to work out an in all respects acceptable solution. Among other things, the ancient idea of using falcons to keep the runways bird-free came up once again.
In 1994, the Port Authority hired a wildlife biologist and falconer in order to approach the problem from another point of view. By that time, several airports across the world had already experimented with the use of falcons and other birds of prey to reduce the threat of nuisance birds. The U.S. Air force had also been testing the technique, at European airbases as early as back in the 1970s.

During the early gull nesting season of 1995, March through May, a field test was started with four falconers and nine birds of prey patrolling the airfield in alternating shifts. The number of gulls shot dropped, and the bird to aircraft collision incidents rate sank. But the additional positive effects of the falconry project were considered insignificant compared to its cost, and by the end of May 1995 the field test was cut short due to financial issues. 
In June 1995, an Air France Concorde on approach to JFK Airport was struck by a flock of geese. Two of the birds were inhaled into one of her jet engines, shredding it into pieces. Luckily, the aircraft had been descending; during takeoff a similar occurrence would probably have caused a fatal crash. Still, a $5 million damage resulted.
The next year, the falconry program was established anew.

To this day John F. Kennedy International Airport is the only commercial airport in the U.S. which regularly uses falcons as a means to prevent birdstrike. Today, the falconry program is run by a contracted company, Falconry Environmental Services, that links to the Port Authority via a manager of operations.   

No comments:

Post a Comment