SOUTHWEST ASIA --
Timing is critical for mission success; ensuring aircraft get off the ground in the designated time is a must. However, when animals don’t seem to be too concerned, proper measures must be taken.
Many airfields in Southwest Asia have found it difficult to keep animals away from runways and are looking for the most humane way to do so.
Since 2016 nearly three million dollars have been spent on wildlife related damages in the area of responsibility. This year, a small bird was sucked into an engine, this incident alone caused $500,000 in damages.
On December 3, 2018, the U.S. Air Force teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to train airfield managers from bases across Southwest Asia for the first time on how to set up a Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program.
“This training is primarily how to build a BASH program and a large portion of it is constructing a physical continuity binder that goes over the animals they work with, known places of habitat, food, and water that will be marked on the map,” explained Tyler Adams, U.S.D.A. wildlife biologist, who spearheaded the unprecedented training program.
Recently airfields have tried alternative methods of pest deterrence, to include chasing the birds off the runway with vehicles, to which the birds would take flight and then return back to the location once the vehicle passed. This training provided airfield managers knowledge on a variety of scare tactics and preventative measures that could cut down the time immensely.
Pyrotechnics are the main source of scare tactics that airfield managers were trained on to include the use of screamers, bangers and cracker rounds.
They were also trained on a variety of preventative measures, such as using drop nets to trap and remove the birds or other animals from the area, and eliminating food and water sources around the flight line.
“This training will significantly reduce the likelihood of having an incident as well as keeping the missions and aircraft flying, by reducing airfield shutdowns due to high bird populations on the runways,” explained Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth Riff, 443rd Air Expeditionary Squadron safety representative.
While the primary purpose of the training is to deter animals, airfield managers will also be maintaining a list of all animals in their respected area, including endangered species.
“We are going to have a list of endangered species in the area so they can keep an eye out on that and report sightings to us, so we can then report it to the Smithsonian,” Adams explained. “Due to this area being war torn for so long, there is a big empty spot in data on whether these animals are even here or not.”
Documenting the endangered species is one of the many focuses of the program, but its main goal aligns with Air Force Central Command leadership.
“Ensuring safety of our air crews by mitigating bird and wildlife hazards throughout the area of responsibility is incredibly important. Many of these areas have not had a BASH program in the past, so getting the programs off the ground will make a huge difference for both U.S. and coalition forces,” explained the Air Force Central Command deputy director of safety. “This training, which was home-grown in the 386 AEW Safety office, is the catalyst for reducing bird strike rates in areas that have been unreached in the past. It continues a tradition of innovation and excellence we have seen from that wing.”