herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Airport takes action after 188 'bird strikes' in the past three years

US Airways Flight 1549 had to ditch in the Hudson river. Photo: Edouard H. R. Gluck
US Airways Flight 1549 had to ditch in the Hudson river. Photo: Edouard H. R. Gluck

There have been 188 "bird strikes" at Dublin Airport in the past three years, in which birds collided with planes or were sucked into their engines.

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has described the collisions as "high-risk events" that have the potential to bring down aircraft, pointing to the "miracle on the Hudson" in 2009.

There were also 105 collisions involving hares at the airport, which most often involved the animals being "ingested directly into an aircraft engine" while planes were moving on the runway, according to the DAA.

One such incident occurred on November 20 last year, when up to six hares were struck by an aircraft. The airport's runway had to close as a result of the "multiple hare strikes".

The DAA responded by undertaking a controlled shoot at Dublin Airport, in which 35 hares were killed.

A spokesperson for the authority said the termination was "a reluctant measure" that was taken following the incident in November, and an increased number of hare sightings by pilots.

The more usual method of hare population control at the airport is a catch-and-release system, which saw 203 hares taken and relocated to Kildare and Wicklow last year.

"Aviation safety is of paramount importance for any airport operator," said the spokesperson.

"Dublin Airport must, like all airports, actively manage wildlife hazards on and surrounding the airport as these present a significant aviation safety risk."

Specific safety risks include the "ingestion of one or more birds into an aircraft engine while it is on arrival, departure or close to the airport", according to documents released under Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) regulations.

"Such events have brought down aircraft worldwide, as described in the film Sully," it added.

Emergency

Sully is a 2016 movie based on the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on New York's Hudson River after colliding with a flock of birds, disabling both engines.

Figures released under AIE regulations reveal that 60 "bird strikes" occurred at Dublin Airport last year - an average of five a month.

There was a total of 41 hare strikes during the same period. Some 405 hares were captured for release as part of the airport's wildlife management plan between 2015 and 2018.

"We have a large hare population because they are protected from predators on the airfield - no foxes can get in the boundary fence," explained the DAA spokesperson.

The DAA deploys a "hierarchy of controls" designed to reduce the safety threat posed by birds and other wildlife living in 670 acres of grassland at Dublin Airport.

These controls include "bird-scaring activities" undertaken by the airport's fire service, which uses flare guns during patrols to deter birds from settling close to the airfield.

Hawk kites are also used to scare smaller birds away from the airport, along with "humming lines" which are thin plastic filaments stretched between bamboo canes that make a noise in the wind.

The DAA retains the services of a consultant ornithologist to provide advice regarding measures to minimise the risk of "bird strikes".

Promoted articles

Entertainment News