Politics

Report: One-Third of Commercial Airports Ignoring Bird Strike Dangers

A third of the nation's commercial airports are not taking legally required steps to reduce the danger of potentially deadly bird strikes, according to a report on a government study soon to be released.

A review by the Federal Aviation Administration found that about 150 airports have not completed studies of the threat posed by wild animals, despite the airfields' histories of serious collisions between airplanes and birds and other small wildlife, USA Today reported.

The lack of action shows that airports aren't taking the danger seriously, said Paul Eschenfelder, lead instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's airport wildlife control program.

"It just shows how this problem has been ignored and shuffled to the side by the aviation community over the years," he told the paper. "It takes a catastrophe to focus everybody's attention."

Though bird strikes have been a perennial problem, the crash-landing of a U.S. Airways flight into the Hudson River in January underlined the risks involved.

The plane carrying 155 passengers and crew struck a flock of Canada geese during its ascent over New York, but pilot Chesley Sullenberger safely guided the aircraft into a water landing in the Hudson, saving the lives of all on board.

Other flights have not been as fortunate. Commercial and military planes in decades past have been brought down by engine and structural damage, killing dozens, an issue that continues to bedevil flight safety boards.

In 2007 there were a total of 7,666 commercial collisions with wildlife, according to the Bird Strike Committee, though they estimate that only about one-fifth of strikes are reported by pilots.

Airports employ a number of techniques to keep wildlife away from flight zones. Some change the grasses and plants in the surrounding environment, and some simply cull the bird population to diminish their threat. Many use pyrotechnics, scarecrows or predatory birds -- generally anything in their power to keep the animals at bay.

Birds strikes cost an estimated $600 million a year in the U.S., due to damage and downtime for planes to be inspected and fixed. A few hundred other strikes are reported each year with small mammals, reptiles and even bats.

Click here for more on this story from USA Today.