How Sea-Tac Airport keeps birds from hitting planes
SEATTLE -- The highly anticipated movie “Sully” opens in theaters this weekend. The movie, starring Tom Hanks, is about Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger’s Miracle on the Hudson when he miraculously landed his plane on the Hudson River in New York after a flock of birds struck the engines.
Since that incident, airports across the country have increased their efforts to ensure all birds stay away from planes.
Sea-Tac Airport has been a leader for some time on the issue. It is the only airport in the country using a 3D avian radar that can detect birds that are on or near the runway.
“The main focus here is to increase awareness of wildlife hazards on the airfield," Wildlife Biologist Steve Osmek said. "So when we get an alert, we head to a region and harass the wildlife, and when we get to an area where the birds are flying high, we call the tower and make sure the pilots are aware that the birds are on or near the airfield.”
A team made up of 24 trained professionals go out to the areas detected on the radar and fire off noisemakers to safely divert the birds from the airport.
“We can protect birds, and from an airline standpoint it really is saving them money,” Osmek said. “We’re minimizing the number of damaging strikes that occur here at the airport.”
Aside from using the noisemakers, the airport also has several traps placed throughout the property. On Thursday, they caught a couple of hawks. Osmek explained how the trap catches the bird.
“This stick has a hinge on it as a perch so when the bird lands on this hinged stick it collapses and they close,” Osmek said.
Once the birds are caught, they are tagged and then safely released in the Skagit Valley. If you see birds with a blue tag and a number on their wing the airport wants you to contact them so they can get a better understanding of where these animals are heading.
Sea-Tac has been a leader in this area for four decades. 40 years ago it became the first airport in the country to hire a wildlife biologist.