Saturday, November 21, 2015

Australian Airports Association recommends destruction of flying fox habitats to better manage high number of dangerous strikes on Queensland runways

Cairns Airport Safety officer Craig Tatlow mans the bird dispersal noise cannon as a Virgin aircraft lands on the main runway at Cairns airport.

Queensland airports have been told to destroy flying fox habitats near runways as part of safety plans for managing dangerous bird strikes.

And airline operators have been told to have guns to hand to take out black kites that threaten aircraft.

The Australian Airports Association (AAA) has issued new warnings to the nation’s aerodromes after cataloging the number of birds crashing into engines and windscreens as planes take off and land.

The issue is a particular problem in Queensland, where nearly 5000 bird strikes occurred over the decade to 2013 – twice as many as the next largest recorded number in NSW.

More than 430 of Australia’s 872 flying fox strikes and 406 of the 839 national black kite strikes were in Queensland.

While no one was killed by the strikes, they damage aircraft and result in forced landings and high-speed aborted takeoffs.

Recent cases include an eagle crashing through the windscreen of a light plane and a helicopter catching fire when its rotor blades struck an eagle.

The AAA said it was prompted to revise the information it provided to aerodromes in the wake of the report, calling the kite and flying fox strikes “a demonstrated risk to safe operations”.

The report said flying foxes presented a “significant strike risk” because they could fly over airports in the hundreds or thousands, had a high body mass, were hard to see at night and were generally unresponsive to conventional dispersal tools such as lights and sirens.

Instead, airports are being told to cut down all fruiting and flowering trees with roost relocation the only other option.

For kites, the AAA is recommending pyrotechnics, stockwhips, lights and deploying people to drive nearby and “yell at them”.

Brisbane had the second-highest number of bird strikes among Australia’s major airports, after Darwin, but Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns had higher rates per takeoff and landing.

“Occasional lethal control may be required,” the report says, recommending airports have appropriate firearms licences and lethal control permits to hand.

A US pilot safely ditched his A320 into the Hudson River in New York saving 155 on board, after both engines cut out from a double bird strike in 2009.

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Flying foxes are considered a “significant strike risk”.

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