|AIRPORT WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
AIRPORT WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AND PLANNING
BULLETIN #32—WINTER 2002
In Bulletin #31, Airport Wildlife Management and Planning (Part 1), we defined some terms that are commonly used in the development of risk-assessment frameworks and wildlife-management plans. We went on to describe the seven steps in the Canadian Standards Association Q850 risk-assessment process as it pertains to TC Civil Aviation. According to the new wildlife-management and planning regulation, the Q850 process or its equivalent must be used in the development of risk-assessment frameworks at Canadian airports that meet the applicability requirements.
In this bulletin, we examine a variety of ways through which airports can comply with the requirements of the new regulation. Three fictional airports are presented: a small regional airfield, a mid-size international airport and a major international facility. While these airport models enable us to demonstrate how to acquire data and develop risk assessments and management plans, we recommend you solicit expert opinions—such as those of experienced wildlife-hazard specialists—to develop solutions tailored to your circumstances.
Airport One—A Small Regional Facility
Airport One is situated in a coastal area, and its one paved runway is subject to maritime weather conditions for much of the year. The area is rich in biodiversity and includes a wide range of bird species that are common to Canadian coastal regions. The airport is operated by the neighbouring community; Emergency Response Services (ERS) are provided by the local volunteer fire department. During a normal day, there are two scheduled B-737, two Dash-8 and four Beech 1900 operations. An airport manager, assistant manager and maintenance officer staff the facility. Wildlife-control activities are conducted whenever staff can afford the time, and if pilots report significant problems associated with birds.
In the previous ten years, two significant bird-strike incidents occurred at the airport. In both cases, aircraft engines were badly damaged on takeoff and precautionary landings were required. The aircraft were out of service for two days as a result of each event. Following the first incident, Transport Canada conducted a safety review that included an ecological study conducted by a private consulting firm.
When the new wildlife-management and planning regulation came into effect, the airport manager realized Airport One would be required to comply with the guidelines due to the following factors:
the number of operations involving commercial, passenger-carrying aircraft,
the location of the landfill,
the fact that Airport One is situated in a built-up area and
the history of damaging bird-strike events.
The airport manager began to develop a risk-assessment and management plan by having the assistant manager review past files to collect all information related to wildlife incidents. Copies of the TC safety review report were located. The assistant manager checked the TC website and obtained records of wildlife incidents. He also contacted the TC regional office to learn whether additional documentation was on file. The regional office found a report that had been prepared by the Canadian Wildlife Service under contract to TC. This report provided a bird-hazard assessment of seven airports in the region, including Airport One.
Meanwhile, the airport manager contacted the provincial ministry of natural resources and located reports that had been prepared as part of a provincial wildlife inventory. He met with station managers of the two airlines that serve the community, and obtained a number of bird-strike reports that had not been forwarded to TC. The meeting also gave the station managers the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns regarding bird-strike threats at the airport.
The airport manager then thoroughly reviewed the compiled documentation and concluded that there was a significant bird-strike risk at Airport One. Comparison of the province’s wildlife inventory data with that gathered in the TC safety review revealed that bird populations, species and behaviour had not changed significantly since the report was prepared. In addition, TC data for the two significant strikes indicated the potential for bird-strike incidents was particularly high during winter days. Among reports that identified the bird species involved, Herring Gulls were most frequently struck. As provincial data indicated a thriving Herring Gull population, the airport manager identified the species as Airport One’s greatest hazard; several other species of shorebirds were identified as lesser threats.
The manager noted that the TC database showed B-737 aircraft to be involved most frequently in damaging bird-strike incidents, while Dash-8 flights were involved in some minor incidents; both these aircraft were in regular use at Airport One. The TC database validated both the winter Herring Gull threat and the hazard posed by other shorebirds during the remainder of the year.
With his risk assessment complete, the airport manager reviewed his options for managing bird risks at Airport One. He had a staff of three, and limited financial resources. Clearly, a full-scale wildlife-control program was not feasible; however, as the greatest risk was associated with B-737 and Dash-8 operations—and as these were regular flights—the manager knew he could coordinate wildlife-control initiatives with airline schedules.
As a result, his wildlife-management plan called for control activities to coincide with all turbine-powered aircraft operations, and with any increases in bird activity that put other types of aircraft operations at risk. According to the plan, runway-clearing patrols would begin 30 minutes before all scheduled arrivals and departures. Bird-control activities would also be initiated to accommodate all itinerant turbine-powered operations. Patrols would be conducted either by the airport manager, assistant manager or maintenance officer. Following information contained in the TC Wildlife Control Procedures Manual, dispersal techniques would include extensive hazing with pyrotechnics; a shotgun would be used occasionally when lethal control became necessary.
Airport One’s wildlife-management plan established a protocol whereby all airport employees and stakeholders were required to report unusual bird activity; the Flight Service Station would relay any information to flight crews.
The plan also contained provisions to address the training requirements of the new wildlife-management and planning regulation. The airport manager, assistant manager and maintenance officer would participate in a wildlife-control training seminar presented by the private sector and supported by TC. Airline station personnel would be trained to conduct bird-control activities when airport staff were unavailable. Finally, the airport manager purchased a software package that enabled him to maintain records of all wildlife incidents and wildlife-control actions, and to compile annual reports for the TC Aerodrome Safety Inspector.
Airport Two—A Mid-sized International Facility
Airport Two is situated in boreal forest near the Great Lakes. The facility has a 6000-foot ILS-equipped main runway and a 5000-foot crosswind runway. The airport is essential to the community, supporting local tourism and resource industries. On average, Airport Two handles approximately 100,000 commercial, passenger-carrying operations per year. The airport is governed by a local airport authority, and is staffed by an airport manager, an operations manager, an ERS team, as well as maintenance and administrative support personnel. Airport maintenance personnel conduct scheduled wildlife-control patrols, supported by the ERS team.
Airport Two has a history of significant bird-strike incidents, mostly related to local gull populations, which have grown as a result of a nearby municipal landfill site. One bird-strike incident involved a jet transport aircraft carrying 95 passengers and crew; the aircraft was forced to return to the airport after suffering extensive airframe damage and the loss of one engine on the takeoff run. This incident led to a joint review of local bird hazards by the airport management team and TC specialists. The airport made significant changes to its wildlife-control program based on the findings of the review.
The operations manager was quick to realize that Airport Two was required to comply with Transport Canada’s new wildlife-management and planning regulation. A review of the regulation and standards indicated that the airport’s current wildlife-management program would be in full compliance once the risk assessment was updated, and additional details were added to the management plan to address some training and reporting issues.
The operations manager took the opportunity to review Airport Two’s complete wildlife-management files, which went back many years. He also checked records of bird-strike incidents to validate his assessment that Ring-billed Gulls were the airport’s greatest wildlife hazard; Herring Gulls were identified as secondary threats, while a few records noted strikes involving American Crows.
Subsequent to the incident involving the passenger jet mentioned earlier, the airport manager initiated a cost-shared, bird-hazard assessment with the municipal government. The resulting consultant’s report provided compelling evidence that a landfill located near the airport was a prime attractant for gulls and provided enough food to sustain high population levels in the area. The report concluded that bird-strike incidents would continue—in spite of an effective wildlife-control program—because of the resulting dense concentration of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. The report recommended:
improvements to the management of the municipal landfill,
changes to the airport grass-management program, and
increased emphasis on controlling American Crows near the threshold of one runway.
The operations manager updated his risk assessment to accommodate these recommendations. He contacted TC headquarters and obtained a copy of Victoria International Airport’s management plan. Using this as a template, he amended Airport Two’s wildlife-management plan to include:
a requirement for longer grass at certain times of the year,
a greater emphasis on control of crows, and
a commitment to continue working with the municipal council to implement a bird-control program at the landfill.
Additionally, the operations manager committed to work with the Canadian Wildlife Service to promote an egg-addling program that would help control regional gull populations. This initiative would address both human and aviation safety, as the accumulation of gull fecal matter was identified as a serious health concern in the consultant’s report.
Finally, the airport manager developed a schedule to include additional maintenance staff in the wildlife control-training program. He also purchased a customized software package to ensure state-of-the-art data collection, analysis and record keeping.
Airport Three—A Large International Facility
Airport Three handles more than 300,000 aircraft operations per year. Managed by an airport authority, the facility includes a complex runway system comprising parallels, a crosswind strip and one runway featuring full Cat IIIA capability. As a destination airport for many international carriers, Airport Three generates considerable revenue for the adjacent city and the province. The airport directly employs more than 300 people, and much of the facility’s specialized work is done on contract.
The airport attracts numerous bird species due not only to its location on a major migratory waterfowl flyway, but also to the facility’s proximity to municipal landfills, city parks, restaurants and food-processing plants.
When the airport was operated by Transport Canada, a number of safety reviews were conducted, and bird-hazard specialists were contracted to prepare extensive risk assessments and ecological surveys. Recently, additional bird-hazard assessments preceded several major construction projects to ensure that hazardous bird species would not be attracted.
Over the years, Airport Three experienced several serious bird-strike events involving fully loaded passenger-carrying aircraft; other strike occurrences involved White-tailed Deer and Coyotes. The bird strikes resulted in engine failures, windshield damage and precautionary landings. Following one event, legal action was initiated against the airport authority by the foreign carrier that operated the aircraft. The suit was dropped when the airport’s vice president of operations took action to modify the wildlife team’s patrol schedule and address problems that contributed to the event.
Following Transport Canada’s devolution of the facility, the airport authority examined the costs associated with wildlife-control teams to determine whether the service should be outsourced. The authority concluded that liability issues—as well as the complexities of a wildlife-control program—justified the contracting of wildlife-control officers. A comprehensive tendering process led to the selection of an eight-person wildlife-control team. The contract is managed by the director of airside operations; items such as wildlife-control officer training and firearms permits are the responsibility of the contracted company.
The airport’s director of airside operations asked the superintendent of airfield compliance to ensure Airport Three conformed to the new Wildlife Management and Planning regulation. The superintendent considered this an excellent opportunity to measure the wildlife-control program’s cost effectiveness and capacity to reduce risk. A full documentation review revealed the airport was in need of a formal risk assessment and management plan. Deficiencies were identified in the quality of reporting, primarily due to the exclusive use of hard-copy reporting systems both in the field and in the office.
Following discussions with the director of airside operations, the airport’s superintendent hired an experienced wildlife-hazard consultant. The consultant was required to validate previous ecological studies, update aircraft operational data, prepare a risk assessment and write a new management plan.
The consultant spent six months reviewing ecological data from numerous federal, provincial, municipal and academic studies conducted in the region. A field biologist carried out field studies to provide data specific to Airport Three, and reviewed the findings from previous wildlife-related safety reviews and risk assessments. Her final report concluded that the contract wildlife-control team was highly effective at reducing wildlife-related risk and had succeeded at progressively reducing the bird-strike rate over a period of several years. The biologist also validated the species-prioritization list that was developed in a previous safety review.
The consultant identified several minor deficiencies in Airport Three’s wildlife-control program, including requirements to modify grass-management activities and increase nighttime wildlife patrols. The consultant recommended:
Installation of netting to keep birds from using storm-water retention ponds.
Purchase of a customized software package to record and analyze data.
Distribution of handheld pocket PCs to each wildlife-control officer, enabling all sightings and control efforts to be recorded in the field and downloaded at the end of a shift.
The airport authority and Transport Canada should pursue joint research and development of 3D-Doppler radar for the purpose of identifying bird hazards in real-time. This system would also provide critical bird-movement data that would inform ongoing wildlife-control efforts and enable the team to dedicate its resources more effectively.
We hope this two-part series of bulletins provides guidance in your efforts to comply with the new wildlife-management and planning regulation, which is expected to take effect later this year. Once the regulation is in place, affected airports will have a one-year grace period in which to fulfill their compliance requirements. We encourage you to take full advantage of the many resources identified in these two bulletins; the wealth of available information and skilled personnel will help ensure your airport experiences a smooth transition to the new regulation.
For additional information, contact:
Wildlife Control Specialist
Transport Canada, Safety and Security (AARMB)
Aerodrome Safety Branch
7C, Place de Ville