Grissom BASH Program Hangs by a Thread

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert
  • 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program is the culmination of several different efforts that overlap to mitigate wildlife hazards. Here, that’s all held together by a thread.

The BASH program is responsible for mitigating wildlife hazards around flight lines and the aircraft.

Unfortunately for the mission here, a flock of Canadian Geese took residence in the pond near civil engineering.

Normally, geese are no more than a pest, but near a flight line, their presence can be deadly.

 “If an aircraft hits a Canadian goose it could cause catastrophic engine failure,” said Master Sgt. Kenneth Knight, 434th Air Refueling Wing flight safety NCO. “The KC-135 has four engines, so if we lose one, we still have a good chance at landing safely. But for our neighbors to the north at Fort Wayne, if one of their A-10s takes on a Canadian goose, it probably won’t be able to recover from it.”

When birds and aircraft are sharing an airspace, bird strikes are bound to happen, but it’s the larger species of birds that really pose a threat to safety.

Knight said the biggest birds Grissom sees are Turkey Buzzards, Red Tail Hawks, Red Shouldered Hawks and then the Canadian Geese, but the danger with geese is that once they nest, somewhere, they almost always come back.

So how do you stop the geese from seeing Grissom as optimal nesting ground?

Knight found the answer in a ball of string.

“I was driving through a subdivision at a friend’s house and I noticed that they had string around the retention ponds there, inside and outside of the water,” he said. “I also noticed that there were no geese there. I thought if homes and subdivisions were using them, why can’t we use them here at Grissom?”

Knight presented his idea to CE, and with supplies already on hand, they put up a string fence surrounding the pond.

The string deters the geese by not allowing them to walk out of the water and into the grassy areas to nest.

“This is our second season and it's been very successful…When we look at identifying the problem and applying techniques, this has been a very low cost alternative for us. It doesn’t mean that the geese haven’t landed here, but it’s enough to keep them wanting to go somewhere else.”

In addition to saving money, the string fence also cuts down on man hours and emotional stress for other base personnel.

Prior to the fence, a depredation team made up of volunteers, had to shoot the geese and properly dispose of them. This took Airmen and the volunteers away from their jobs, and caused emotional stress for onlookers.

A bird strike also poses a health risk for the aircraft maintenance Airmen who have to clean the animal’s remains from the aircraft, potentially exposing them to Avian Flu and other diseases.

“It’s good for the geese and good for the personnel on base and it makes things a little safer,” Knight said.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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