Hill deploys propane cannon to scare off birds

  • Published
  • By Richard Essary
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

If you happen to hear a shotgun-like boom coming from Hill’s airfield, safety officials with the 75th Air Base Wing want you to know they will occasionally use a propane cannon to frighten birds and other wildlife away from it.

The “bird cannon” is a remote controlled tube connected to a propane tank and when activated ignites a small amount of propane to emit a pressure regulated sonic blast.

When bird levels are high around an airfield, it poses a flight safety risk because aircraft can’t take off without the risk of hitting birds. The cannon acts to protect the aircraft, as well as the birds, by scaring them from the airfield.

The sound emitted at 1,000 meters (or one kilometer) is about 60 decibels, which is equivalent to a normal conversation. Depending on weather and wind conditions, officials said the sound might not be noticeable unless you are on the airfield.

The frequency of use depends heavily on bird activity. Use of the cannon will occur most often in the evening close to sunset when bird activity is highest.

Use is approximately 3-4 times per week through September. As bird activity subsides during the winter months, use decreases to 1-2 times per month until March.

The bird cannon is one of many mitigations the base uses to reduce the risk of aircraft bird strikes and keep pilots and wildlife safe.

A fogger that releases a harmless, grape-flavored chemical often found in beverages started being used last year to coat insects and repel birds from critical areas of Hill's runway.