Safety preps for bird strikes

Senior Airmen Kerry Solan-Johnson and Melissa Maraj
Kaiserslautern American

The sounds of spring at Ramstein Air Base – chirping birds, wildlife, and German gliders – have a much more specific meaning to flight safety officials.

“Traditionally, spring is the time when flight mishaps go up,” said Capt. Tim Stuart, 86th Airlift Wing flight safety chief.

As animal activity increases as well as changing weather and increased air traffic, so do safety’s focus on airfield, and aircraft safety.

To ensure increased awareness and to avoid mishaps during spring, reliance on such programs as Bird Aircraft Strike Hazards, and Mid-Air Collision Avoidance is important. Also, with ongoing airfield construction, there is a new source of potential mishaps between vehicles and aircraft that can occur.

In an effort to prevent bird strikes, which can cause minor to severe damage to an aircraft, a new BASH cannon system was installed last spring, said Captain Stuart.

The propane cannons, which can be remotely operated by the aircraft tower, flight safety, or airfield management are located throughout the airfield and can produce a loud bang that scares away wildlife in the area.

“Each cannon also has a noise generator that simulates the sounds of various birds in distress. The birds hear this and fly away from the danger,” he said.

In addition to this, flight safety and airfield management have pyrotechnic pistols that make a lot of noise, and sirens mounted on the vehicles which act like bird cannons, said Captain Stuart. A falconer, who uses various types of falcons, is also brought in to scare away the birds in or around the airfield.

Preventing close calls on and off the airfield is an important part of keeping aircraft and personnel safe.

“We work very closely with airfield management personnel on a daily basis to ensure that we do not have any Controlled Movement Area violations,” he said.

A CMA violation is defined by the instance when a car or aircraft enters a portion of the airfield that the control tower has not cleared them. This can also pose a serious hazard on the airfield. This is especially important with the addition of increased construction vehicles in the area.

By adhering to safety precautions, and educating the community, airfield personnel and safety ensure that aircraft arriving and departing Ramstein
do so safely.