Friday, April 20, 2018

Coyotes cause $6,000 damage at North Little Rock Municipal Airport (KORK)

While coyotes are considered a nuisance animal across the state of Arkansas, they've become something of an aviation nuisance in North Little Rock.

The predators, members of the dog family known for their cleverness and ability to adapt, have latched on to an expensive chew toy at North Little Rock Municipal Airport -- the silicone-based joints on a concrete ramp and taxiway.

The damage is going to take $6,000 to fix, officials say.

"It's essentially their chew toy," says Blake Roberson, an engineer with Garver LLC, the engineering, planning, architectural and environmental services firm based in North Little Rock.

The general aviation airport off Remount Road is home to 180 aircraft while its two runways accommodate 56,000 operations a year.

But at night when the airport quiets down, the coyotes come out and eventually play with the rubberlike sealant.

"I'm not sure exactly what attracts them to it," Roberson said. "I know in the past there has been some airfield lighting problems with rubber components. There was something in the rubber that attracted the coyotes. I have a feeling it's something similar with the sealant."

Injected into the joints where the concrete blocks that make up the ramp and taxiway come together, the sealant protects the concrete and its subsurface from moisture and water, which can damage the pavement when the moisture or water freezes and thaws.

"The sealant is there to try to keep moisture from getting under the pavement," said Roberson, who is the airport's project manager. "You go through freeze-thaw cycles and messing up the subgrade. Eventually, it will cause pavement failure."

The coyotes apparently can spend hours playing with the rubberlike sealant.

"It happens over time," Roberson said. "It's adhered to the concrete. Over time, pieces of it come loose and I think what it is, they will get a big enough piece that they can get a hold of in their teeth like a dog with its chew toy."

The coyotes leave behind evidence.

"You can see the chew marks," said Clay Rogers, the airport director. "You can see a long strip of it ripped out with teeth marks on it and coyote poop all over the area."

Ridding the airport of coyotes has turned out to be easier said than done.

The airport has twice in recent years undertaken a trapping program to remove the coyotes from the airport property, Rogers said.

But they eventually return, thanks to the airport's proximity to Camp Joseph T. Robinson, the heavily wooded Arkansas National Guard training installation across the street from the airport.

"We can eradicate every coyote inside the fence, and a year later they may come over from the other side of the street from Camp Robinson," Rogers said. "They'll find their way over here."

The airport also has a woods on its property that serves as a buffer to the city of Sherwood to the east and a hideaway for coyotes and other animals. The airport doesn't have the money to clear the property unless it was developed.

"The airport hasn't needed to develop there," Roberson said. "There hasn't been a need to clear it."

Animals have long been an annoying and sometimes dangerous nuisance for airports and the pilots who land and take off at them.

Bird strikes are a common problem, especially for aircraft taking off from and landing at airports near bodies of water.

Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field, which abuts the Arkansas River in Little Rock, has had to employ mitigation measures to reduce the likelihood of birds nesting in the vicinity of the airport.

The most famous bird-strike incident was the "Miracle on the Hudson" on Jan. 15, 2009. US Airways Flight 1549, with 155 people aboard, was struck by a flock of Canada geese minutes after taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City.

The Airbus A320 lost power to both engines. After the pilots determined they couldn't return to the airport, they ditched the airliner in the Hudson River. All aboard were rescued.

Michael Griffin, aviation director for Garver, said coyotes and other animals used to dig up the small transformers used for runway edge lights until the Federal Aviation Administration allowed the transformers and other equipment to be encased to protect them from animals.

Similarly, ants used to like building their nests, or ant hills, around runway lights, he said.

Deer on runways are a common problem at small, rural airports, especially at night, Griffin said. It isn't uncommon at suburban airports such as North Little Rock, either.

Bob Connor, a private pilot based at the North Little Rock airport and a lead representative for the FAA's safety program in Arkansas, said an FAA employee recently tried to land at North Little Rock at least twice but was blocked from doing so by deer on the runways.

The deer didn't seem startled, Connor said. "They just stood there and looked at her."

As for the coyotes, airport officials believe they have a less appetizing option. They plan to reseal the concrete joints with another type of sealant, known in the industry as a "hot-pour" mixture. The cost is expected to total about $6,000, for which the airport plans to obtain a state grant to pay.

"The hot-pour is more of an asphalt-based rubberized sealant," Roberson said. "We will get a better seal, and the coyotes aren't attracted to that like they are the silicone-based sealant."

"That we know of yet," added Rogers.

Original article can be found here ➤

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