KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Since the beginning of aviation history there have been dangers to flying. One of the dangers is “bird strikes,” which cause millions of dollars of damage every year and occasionally the loss of life.
To help mitigate the issue of bird strikes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services-Wildlife Services works with the military on installations around the world with the Bird Avoidance Strike Hazard (BASH) program.
The BASH program at Kandahar was implemented in the beginning of fiscal year 2011.
“The overall goal of the BASH program is to prevent/reduce wildlife strikes to aircraft by implementing an integrated approach to management of wildlife at airports,” said Luke Barto, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Safety Office.
Barto is an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services Wildlife Services operating under the authority of the 451st AEW Safety Office at KAF.
“Bird strikes can cause damage to aircraft leading to downtime for, often time costly repairs and affect the ability to complete missions as well as having the potential to affect the safety of inbound and outgoing air traffic,” said the Winnemucca, Nev., native.
Barto said that when it comes to bird strikes not all wildlife are created equal.
“Large size birds have more mass and have the potential to cause a great deal of damage, while flocking birds have the potential to impact multiple areas and are more susceptible to engine ingestions, which can result in total engine failure,” he said.
Barto’s execution of the BASH program at KAF consist of daily patrols, conducting structured monthly wildlife surveillance in order to assess wildlife habits and trends, producing the annual Wildlife Hazard Assessment, destroying potential habitat areas, and harassing birds and wildlife.
The wildlife hazard assessment is a 12-month study using structures surveys that evaluates wildlife movements, behaviors and habitat usage to categorize the greatest threats to aircraft and recommendations to manage them. Evaluation of habitat attractants and wildlife usage and dispersal of wildlife are all part of an integrated management approach, Barto said.
Wildlife management can often be very controversial, but the overall outcome is to provide a safer airfield, Barto explained. By making airfields less ideal places for wildlife to consider as habitats he's reducing the probability of strikes, which are often fatal to the wildlife.
“Wildlife can be very diverse and therefore require a multifaceted approach,” Barto said. “Matching the proper mitigation to the species can be very challenging and may take several attempts, but knowing that strikes may have been prevented is also very rewarding,” he said.