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Birdstrike to plane windshield
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If you had any doubt about the need for bird control near airports these photos ought to cure you. As you can see there is more to fear about flying than just terrorists.

I received the following email forwarded to me from a colleague..."We recently had a CRJ hit 2 wild turkeys during takeoff at IAD. One hit the windshield and the other got sucked into the right engine. I think they were going about 115 KTS. Not pretty. I'd hate to see what happens if you're doing 250!! "
Turkey Birdstrike

Birds Create Dangerous Skies For Planes, Passengers
Sat Jul 20, 9:56 AM ET

Every year more than $1 billion is wasted and lives are put at risk when birds and other wildlife collide with airplanes.

As NewsChannel5's Ted Hart reported in "Special Assignment," answers to the growing problem are being sought by an elite group of researchers in northeast Ohio.

For the first time in his flying career, Michael Grossman declared a mayday recently.

"When it hit, it shattered the windshield," Grossman said. "And it all came inside."

Grossman's Piper Aerostar had been hit by a goose.

"I felt blood coming down my face and thought the Plexiglas had embedded in my head. I thought I was cut really bad," Grossman said.In fact, the blood belonged to the goose and Grossman managed to land his plane, shaken, but unharmed.

Just two months ago, a small jet taking off at Burke Lakefront Airport was pummeled by a flock of birds, causing substantial damage to both engines.

Hart reported that it happens far more often than you may think. It's a growing problem to aviation.

An engine fell off a Dutch airliner moments after takeoff in Los Angeles. The failure was caused by a sea gull sucked into one of the plane's engines. The plane managed to land safely.

For most air travelers it's not something given even the slightest consideration, but Hart said that 400 people have died in aviation accidents involving bird strikes.

"So we've got more birds in the air, more aircraft in the air and the birds are less able to detect the aircraft so, for these reasons, the problem has become more serious," said Dr. Richard Dolbeer, a biologist.

Dolbeer heads a team of research biologists at the National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky. His team looks for ways to reduce the risk of bird strikes.

"What we're doing here is clipping the flight feathers, primary flight feathers. [It's] totally painless, just like cutting hair. The goose will not be able to fly now," Dolbeer said.

This summer, the research team will expose 100 geese to different varieties of grass. They are looking to find the variety that's least attractive to geese and other birds.

Burke Lakefront airport commissioner Khalid Bahhur said it's the kind of research information that can make a big difference.

"We harassed the sea gulls to the point now where it's not worth their while. Now we're working on the starlings," Bahhur said.

He said they use pyrotechnics, traps and different grass heights at Burke to discourage birds from hanging around the airport.

In Sandusky, biologist Glen Bernhardt studies the remains from bird strikes to determine exactly what the bird was doing at the moment of impact.

"Did it even see the aircraft? Was it flying along not even aware? Was it trying to get out of the way or did it fly head first into
the aircraft?" Bernhardt asked.

Some of the most promising research involves lasers and radar. Researchers said the radar system sends out tiny pulses of microwave energy. Scientists believe that hits the bird's inner ear causing the bird to hear a clicking sound, sensing that something is coming. And a laser gun is now being marketed to airports after research in Sandusky showed how geese react to a laser beam.

"When birds see that beam approaching then they become very nervous and think perhaps a predator is coming toward them and they get up and fly away," Bernhardt said.

The researchers said there is no silver bullet, no one single approach to solving the problem. It's a matter of managing the habitat around airports to minimize the risk, Hart reported.

Later this summer, a full-time biologist will join the staff at Burke Lakefront Airport for one year. Airport biologists are made
available through a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

'Trampoline' keeps birds from planes

By Willoughby Mariano | Sentinel Staff Writer Posted January 20, 2003

KISSIMMEE -- Three yellowing Polaroids provide evidence of the winged creature's demise in a high-speed burst of Fiberglas and feathers.

The impact forced a Gulfstream jet to abort takeoff, leaving a crumpled nose cone among damage totaling $60,000. All that remained of the unlucky bird was a bloody smear.

"There wasn't a whole lot left," Kissimmee Airport manager Terry Lloyd said."But we believe it was a sandhill crane."

Now tiny Kissimmee Airport is at the forefront of the effort in Florida to find a breakthrough in the century-old problem of birds barreling into the hulls of planes. Bird strikes cause millions of dollars in damage to aircraft and have been blamed for numerous crashes.

At the heart of a possible solution: a 1.5-acre, $91,000 net dubbed "the trampoline" that is designed to repel birds. Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Orlando International Airport are watching with interest to see if the trampoline is successful in shooing away the birds.

For at least nine years, the USDA has recommended that airports install giant nets over retention ponds to keep the ponds from serving as hangouts for waterfowl. But the FAA began funding the nets only recently, said Bernice Constantin, director of the USDA's state office.

Kissimmee Airport's giant net is the first of its kind in the state, which has a particular problem with birds hitting airplanes, experts said.

The issue is geology. Florida is like a waterlogged sponge anchored between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. With each new runway, airports must build retention ponds to drain and treat water. This combined with the fact that Florida is a prime locale for migrating birds means the trampoline is especially welcome.

"You put a net up, and you've eliminated birds converging on that pond as long as the netting is in place," Constantin said.

Costly collisions

This year, bird strikes likely will cause an estimated $500 million in damages to civilian aircraft, said Bob Beason, who helps run a USDA research project to prevent the collisions.

The biggest danger -- for people, anyway -- is birds getting sucked into jet engines, causing the engines to fail. Next-most threatening: A turkey vulture or some other large-winged creature crashing into the cockpit during landing or takeoff.

In September alone, more than 700 wildlife strikes were reported to the FAA. Since 1960, about 400 aircraft have been destroyed and more than 370 people killed because of strikes by birds and other wildlife, according to FAA data.

The costly collisions have spawned a growing field of study and inspired yearly national conferences where researchers share information on how to avoid bird strikes and vendors hawkgizmos that amount to high-tech scarecrows.

Larger airports have special crews assigned to keep wildlife from the runway. They deploy a small legion of border collies, or play the calls of distressed birds on loudspeakers, Beason said. They do so, he said, because planes fly at such high speeds that an encounter with a plump, feathered duck can be deadly.

"A mallard can punch a hole through the side of an airplane," Beason said.

At Orlando International Airport, keeping birds at bay is a 24-hour ordeal. At 15,000 acres, the airport is the nation's third-largest in terms of land area. Twenty-five staff members patrol the airfield in sport utility vehicles, scaring fowl with police-like sirens and lights, said Bill Nail, who manages the airfield.

The calls of distressed birds play on loudspeakers, and gas cannons installed near the runways make popping noises that fray bird nerves, as do fireworks.

"I think in Orlando we're constantly looking for any type of material that can eliminate bird strikes and improve safety," Nail said.

About 10 miles away as the crow flies, on the flat patch of turf along Kissimmee Airport's runway, the struggle between man and bird has taken a new tack with the trampoline.

A handful of white egrets mosey on the grass, and a black crow caws from his perch on the top of a telephone pole. They sometimes sit on the runway, and often trail lawnmowers, searching for bugs.

"You talk to me, you talk to the FAA, you talk to somebody in the middle of China, and they'll say the same thing. Birds follow mowers," Lloyd said.

Herding birds isn't easy

Previously, Lloyd drove his white Dodge Ram to a flock of offending birds and honked his horn. For protected species, such as the sandhill crane, he grabbed a 3-by-3-foot piece of cardboard and tossed it in the air.

"Not at the birds," Lloyd said. "You can't harass them."

The birds often ignore him, as they ignore most people.

"Every year somebody's got a new thing to scare the birds," Lloyd said. "In the real world, very little works."

But the airport's newly expanded retention pond is different. Part of $1.3 million in recently completed changes at Kissimmee Airport along with the trampoline, the runway was painstakingly enlarged over nine months to replace a different, 2-acre pond built decades ago along the runway. That older pond was recently emptied and filled as part of the changes.

Every inch of the new pond's surface is covered by the trampoline, a black net that is buffered from the Florida heat and thunderstorms by graphite and other materials. Steel aircraft cable holds it above the water. Duckbill anchors fix it to the ground. From above, Lloyd said, the pond looks as black and as flat as a tarmac.

Early results of the trampoline are encouraging. No birds waded on its surface during a recent visit, though they have bounced around on the netting on their webbed feet before flying off.

"I'm sure it's not comfortable for them," Lloyd said.

Willoughby Mariano can be reached at wmariano@orlandosentinel.com or 406-931-5944.




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