DIA: High bird strike numbers no cause for concern
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Denver International Airport led the nation in bird and wildlife strikes to aircraft last year, according figures released Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
DIA reported 318 bird and wildlife strikes during the first 11 months of 2008. Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport reported the next highest number with 228. December 2008 figures are not yet available.
But FAA and airport officials cautioned nervous flyers that the figures have little bearing on airport safety.
“It’s not all a level playing field. There are so many variables,” said Mike Fergus, spokesman for the FAA’s northwest mountain region. Because DIA has an aggressive wildlife mitigation program, pilots are more aware of the problem and more apt to report a strike, Fergus said.
“Some airports report, some don’t,” said Kendra Cross, the U.S. Department of Agriculture biologist who manages wildlife at DIA.
Cross said DIA does have high strike rates. But, she said: “Is DIA more hazardous than other airports? Not necessarily. Is the strike rate the way to determine that? Absolutely not.”
Cross said DIA is more susceptible to bird and wildlife strikes because it covers more land than any other airport in the nation ” 49,000 acres ” and is the fifth busiest airport in the U.S.
Geography also plays a role. DIA isn’t an urban airport ” “We’re situated right in the middle of an agricultural area,” Cross said.
She added that although the airport’s strike rate is high, its rate of strikes that result in damages is not.
“A large majority of these strikes result in little to no damage to the aircraft,” said DIA spokesman Jeff Green.
In 2008, only six of all reported wildlife strikes at DIA caused significant damage, Green said.
He said DIA performed better than the national average for wildlife strikes resulting in damage. Only 1.1 of every 100,000 strikes at DIA resulted in significant damage, compared with the national average of 1.27.
DIA employs a staff of about 50 to manage wildlife at the airport, said Cross.
Crews use a combination of methods to control wildlife. Grass is kept short, and crews plant species that are less likely to attract animals. “We’re out there every day using pyrotechnics” to scare animals away, Cross said.
“We do the best we can short of completely building a dome over the air field,” she said.