Bird Strikes Remain Concern 10 Years After ‘Miracle on the Hudson'

Connecticut airports revealed the steps they take to avoid these potentially disastrous strikes to NBC Connecticut Investigates

2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of the famous “Miracle On the Hudson” when pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his aircraft and saved everyone on board despite having both engines fail.

This all happened because Sully’s plane encountered a critical series of bird strikes.

Today there is more awareness about bird strikes and how to manage them.

Eric Larson, the operations manager for Bradley International Airport, told NBC Connecticut Investigates, “The airplanes are flying very fast…so, say a Canadian goose could weigh six, seven pounds, if an aircraft is flying at 150 miles an hour…if it hits the turbine blade, it can destroy the engine essentially.”

That’s what airports across the country try to avoid, since odds of another “Miracle on the Hudson” are slim.

Airports employ people like Jamie Streeter with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services to keep planes up, and bird strikes down.

“We want to manage the environment to try to make it so that they don’t want to be here. They don’t feel comfortable here. Managing those larger birds, like Canada geese, to stay off the airfield, is the key to doing that,” Streeter said.

Streeter comes to Tweed Airport in New Haven monthly and is on call.

For a smaller airport, Tweed has quite a few wildlife strikes, about 25 per year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Streeter said the most important thing is to make sure vegetation on and near the airfield is trimmed to specific heights to discourage birds and other animals from taking up residence.

If they do, they are greeted with what Streeter called “pyrotechnics” that have a loud noise, or a boom the birds feel.

“The green ones are screamers, they sound like a whistler or a bottle rocket like when you were a kid, and the red ones are bangers, when they go off they're like an M80,” Streeter explained.

When it comes to preventing bird strikes, believe it or not, the control tower, can actually play a pivotal role.

“They might see something we may not, so they would report that immediately to the airport operations, and we in turn would respond,” explained Tweed Airport Manager Jeremy Nielson.

Wildlife management is also a team effort at Bradley International Airport.

Federal stats indicate it averages 51 wildlife strikes per year, and sometimes Bradley must take more forceful measures than screamers and bangers.

In some cases, USDA Wildlife Services or airport employees must “take,” or kill, nuisance birds that are “frequent flyers” on the airfield, as a last resort.

“This is something we have to do something about. We can’t let this one go because there is lives at risk,” said Colby Cousineau, who works for USDA Wildlife Services at Bradley.

Airport administrators said the cost of bringing USDA Wildlife Services on site is minimal considering the safety they deliver.

It costs Bradley about $60,000 per year, and $30,000 per year at Tweed.

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