Bird Strikes from Portland to Fort Lauderdale

Please Don’t Feed The Birds at PDX

There’s been a number of bird strikes the past few days across the US and Canada which brings up the subject of Man Vs. Nature.  Wildlife around airports present a danger to aircraft, but wildlife removal has always been a hot button issue between environmentalists and airport operators.  We all remember The Miracle on The Hudson when US Airways flight 1549 departed New York LaGuardia and hit a flock of Canada Geese during its initial climb-out, disabling both engines.  Fortunately hitting a flock and having both engines disabled is a rare event, but birds do remain a problem, even if ingested into just one engine.

Don't Feed The Birds at PDX | Bird Strike Prevention at PDX | Air Travel News

At Portland International Airport (PDX) keeping aircraft safe is a war between man and wildlife.  PDX sits on the Columbia River which separates Oregon from Washington State.  Despite the best measures of airport wildlife control, aircraft and birds sometimes collide.  On December 31st, Southwest Airlines 3702 departed Portland, Oregon (PDX) for Oakland, California (OAK) — during climb-out from runway 10L the Boeing 737 took several birds into an engine.  The NTSB reports the aircraft leveled out at 4,000 feet, declared an emergency, and made a safe landing on runway 10R just minutes later.

According to NTSB data and the Port of Portland, which operates the airport, there were 65 bird strikes at PDX in 2011. The airport spends over half a million dollars annually for wildlife control to keep its runways safe.  Wildlife officials use a variety of tools including pyrotechnics, noise makers – even laser beams to scare the birds.  At PDX it just isn’t birds – measures are also in place to keep rodents off of runways.  They can be just as dangerous to aircraft during high-speed take-off’s and landings.

It’s not just during the departure phase birds can be a problem, they can be problematic during approach and landing likewise.  A few days prior, on December 28th, US Airways flight 335 from Phoenix (PHX) to Sacramento, California (SMF), encountered a bird strike to its left engine on approach to Sacramento’s runway 34R.  The A319 operating the flight landed safely.

Also on December 28th, Delta Air Lines flight 1288, a Boeing 757-200, from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Atlanta (ATL) encountered a bird strike at 800 feet departing runway 09L.  The crew reported it may have been a Buzzard, but continued its climb-out and leveled off at 24,000 feet; unsure of aircraft damage, Delta 1288 diverted to Orlando, Florida (MCO) for a safe landing.  The FAA reported birds impacted the fuselage and right engine causing minor damage.

Another event on December 28th, this time in Canada, involved British Airways Flight 93 from London-Heathrow (LHR) to Toronto (YYZ) – the Boeing 777-200 impacted a flock of birds on approach in Toronto.

Why did the Turtle Cross JFK’s Runway 4R ?

While birds are the most significant problem, airports face other wildlife control issues.  At New York’s JFK airport Diamondback Terrapin Turtles come out of the sea and cross runways to reach nesting areas to lay their eggs each year.  At one time in 2011, it was estimated there were 150 of the creatures on a runway at once, as they made the slow trek to the sandy shoreline of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.  According to the Port Authority, airport and wildlife officials do help the turtles along, but despite their small size, they can cause significant damage to aircraft.

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