TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Protecting the flight line from bird hazards is no easy task but Jonathan Cornman and Christine Eades have taken on the challenge. As members of The United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, their mission is to provide federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife conflicts and allow people and wildlife to coexist.
The Birds (and wildlife) Aircraft Safety Hazard program is crucial for aircraft safety and protection. Although Tyndall only has two USDA members, the program is largely used across the Department of Defense and civilian world.
“Nationwide, it’s growing and it’s big. Pretty much most Air Force bases have USDA Wildlife Services in support of BASH and the Navy as well,” said Cornman, 325th Fighter Wing safety flight wildlife biologist.
The BASH program has two types of hazards: active and passive. An active hazard is a bird flying over or around the runway while a passive is the habitat surrounding the airfield that could be attractive to different species. Depending on the type of hazard, the BASH program has several different strategies they can use to mitigate risk on the flight line. This includes bird spikes, vehicle harassment, blanks, habitat management and pyrotechnics.
“We have to be very safe when we shoot pyros,” explained Eades, 325th Fighter Wing biological services technician. “When we use mitigation techniques around these jets because there is a lot going on… You have to be aware of your surroundings, you have to be careful about what you do out here.”
The main hazards the BASH program faces at Tyndall are ospreys, vultures, hawks, mourning doves as well as land-based species such as white-tailed deer, coyotes, and bears. This program has proven to be effective in limiting the amount of bird strikes that occur. For instance, in fiscal year 2020 there were 16,700 bird and wildlife hazards mitigated on or around the airfield which protected the planes and aircrew from possible damage that may occur if a strike were to happen. There was an increased number of strikes and wildlife incidences that occurred before the BASH program was implemented.
“We have records that show… increase damaging strikes which not only cost the Air Force money, but time,” said Cornman. “You’re talking downtime in aircraft that can’t get back out and train and be ready for whatever mission the Air Force has for them.”
With an active flight line, the BASH program works daily to keep the airspace safe. The team members brief aircrews on different levels of risk, and explain what risks are active. They also partner with the weather team to track what migrations are occurring which pilots may come across on their flights.
“Even weather in someone else’s airspace can affect what birds we have here,” explained Cornman. “If you have a cold front coming through the Midwest and its freezing artic weather coming down, those birds are getting out of dodge, so we start to see them here before the weather even shows up.”
As Tyndall’s mission continues to grow, the BASH program is preparing and ready for the influx of aircraft and evolving mission. They are currently working habitat management in the new construction of the airfield and following the trends of wildlife to predict what they may see in the future. The BASH program is a crucial aspect of the flying mission here at Tyndall and ensures safety to aircrew and jets.