International Conference – helping aircraft avoid birds

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Several hundred experts in helping aircraft avoid birds flew into Victoria this week for the 11th Bird Strike North America conference.

Exhibits will feature radar improvements and products that discourage birds from hanging around airports, like Geese Off, a garlic oil sprayed on grass, a radio-controlled flying Falco-Robot and a variety of French-made lasers whose green, red and yellow beams chase away birds without hurting them.

Advances in identifying birds from feathers or DNA samples by experts at the Smithsonian are also to be discussed. The conference is held every two years and alternates between Canada and the U.S.

“It’s the most important thing in aviation safety,” says Terry Stewart, director of airside operations and development, who used to manage bird control at YVR, the Vancouver airport, in the 1980s.

It’s a different issue there. “We’re lucky here, unlike Vancouver which sits on a migratory bird route,” he says.

Canada geese are the villains in many “bird strikes” and the January ditching of a U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River – caused by Canada geese sucked into the engines – will be on the agenda.

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Other species have also been identified in bird strikes – the record was an incident at 15,000 feet when a snow goose struck an aircraft. Two types of duck were involved in another incident at 14,000 feet. Most bird strikes involve just a single bird, not a flock.

It’s a serious issue for aviation. According to one presentation to be made at the conference, in a recent 15-month period birds caused four “catastrophic accidents” resulting in 15 deaths and the destruction of four aircraft.

The four-day conference is at the Delta Victoria OPR until Thursday. See www.birdstrikecanada.com