LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program at Laughlin works daily to keep wildlife off of the airfield. Its purpose is to prevent possible aircraft damage, accidents and wildlife casualties.
“This airfield is arguably one of the busiest in the Air Force,” said Brandon Nooner, 47th Flying Training Wing civilian wildlife biologist. “Having that in mind, the goal of this program is to protect Air Force assets and pilots. Especially since this is a training base; it's critical to keep these pilots in the air and keep them safe in order to help them perform better. ”
Nooner is a one-man team, working every day to keep hundreds of pilots safe from take-off to touch-down.
“Here at Laughlin, I’m actually the only person in this program,” said Nooner. “It’s not just me who keeps these pilots safe, however. Everyone on the flight line helps keep an eye out for any birds or wildlife in the area and then they let me know. I couldn’t do my job successfully without the teamwork of the rest of the base.”
With the BASH program, Nooner is able to professionally, ethically, and responsibly discourage wildlife from the airfield by setting traps, snares, and minimizing points of entry. He also has other ways of keeping out wildlife.
“On a daily basis, I use propane cannons that surround the runway; I shoot pyrotechnics into the air to scare off birds,” Nooner continued. “Most of the equipment is used to produce loud sounds, similar to those of a gunshot or distress call, but I do everything I can to prevent harm to these birds and animals.”
Most of his day is spent out on the airfield, observing each bird and animal he sees, how they entered the airfield, deterring them away from the flight line and finding ways to better prevent them from entering again. Nooner uses his wildlife biology background to research the behavior of each animal to safely deter them from the airfield. Some of the wildlife he encounters includes the Vermilion Flycatcher, Rio Grande Ground Squirrel, Sprague’s Pipit, Gray Fox, and much more.
“The basic goal is to make this airfield seem as uninhabitable and boring as possible,” Nooner. “We don’t want to have any variety in plants or even trash out there. Anything like that interests wildlife; causing them to potentially put themselves and our pilots in danger.”
The BASH program ensures mission readiness and combat capability while providing the safest flying environment possible. The program is designed to reduce risk to aircrews, aircraft and the surrounding community.