Sunday, September 02, 2012

Report: FAA should improve control of birds, wildlife near airports

By Ashley Halsey III,   Sunday, September 2, 2012

The victims could fill a novice bird-watcher's bucket list:  blackpoll warbler, double-crested cormorant, American black duck, short-billed dowitcher, black-crowned night heron, magnolia warbler, budgerigar and green-winged teal.

The other victims could fill an airplane repair shop:  several Boeing 737s, a Boeing 717, a Beechjet 400, a Boeing 747, a Boeing 757 and a Boeing 767.

Birds and jet airplanes don’t play well together.

This fact made news in 2009 when Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III landed a US Airways flight in the Hudson River after a flock of geese stalled both of its engines. Such encounters don’t all turn out that well. In 1960, a flock of European starlings was blamed for an Eastern Airlines crash into Boston Harbor that killed 62 people.

Now there are more planes and more large birds flying around, and collisions between them are happening five times more often than they did in 1990, a new federal report says, sometimes with deadly results.

Almost 75 commercial planes have hit birds this year while taking off or landing at Washington’s three major airports, and in more than than a dozen instances in the past five years, the airplanes have suffered major damage.

At Dulles International Airport, the culprits doing damage have included a pair of red-tailed hawks and a starling. A Canada goose badly damaged a Boeing 737 at Reagan National Airport. And at Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, planes have suffered substantial damage in collisions with a long-tailed duck, an American kestrel, a snow goose and a great blue heron.

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