Earlier this week Jim Hall, former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, wrote an opinion piece for the Times expressing alarm over the location of garbage transfer station very near New York's LaGuardia Airport. One does not need to be an expert in aviation or wildlife to know that some very big birds are attracted to garbage and this is going to cause problems at the airport.
I mentioned Jim's article while having dinner with Andy Lester, manager of New Zealand's Christchurch International Airport on Wednesday night, prompting Andy to invite me to see how his airport is minimizing bird hazards by planting bird and bug repellant grass in some of the fields adjacent to the runway.
|Ford Robertson and endophyte grass at Christchurch airport|
This afternoon, while Ford drove me around the perimeter of the airfield and I snapped photos, we saw several large magpies and some smaller birds on or near the airport but the Grasslanz test field was bird-free.
|Magpies hangin' at the airport|
Airplanes tend to encounter birds at low-altitude and the most dangerous time for this aerial meet and greet is during takeoff, according to Richard Dolbeer, an ornithologist and aviation consultant who spoke to me about after the successful Miracle on the Hudson landing of USAirways Flight 1549.
Try and imagine for example what it was like to be Roger Wutkl who was flying solo over Arizona when a bird crashed through the windscreen of his airplane, knocking his headset and glasses off and making a disgusting mess of the cockpit in November, 2009.
Grasslanz may not be a silver bullet, but it is a creative approach to dealing with a very serious issue.