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Wildlife on and Around Airfields

Essay by   •  January 20, 2011  •  Essay  •  877 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,301 Views

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The danger of wildlife, particularly birds, on and around airfields has become a major issue on military bases. Hour upon hour is spent researching and testing methods to protect the wildlife, personnel, and aircraft. Despite these gallant efforts there are thousands of mishaps every year.

In the past, the effect on the environment and its living creatures wasn't a top issue when building military bases. Unquestionably, it has been a concern though. Since flying first became a reality, documented safety reports go back as far as eighty-eighty years. As a result of not making it a number one priority, today we have problems with environmental organizations under the Endangered Species Act and millions of dollars are spent on scientific systems and even more lost to accidents and fines. There was no way obviously when airfields were being constructed that the significance of this matter could have been predicted. However, with a little more effort years ago and not just within the last twenty, many hazards could have been avoided.

Because of the numerous wildlife strikes to aircraft, literally millions of dollars in damaged parts are spent and millions are lost to complete destruction to aircraft. On the average, 3,126 strikes are reported each year by the military at nearly an average cost of $12,000 per case. This has led to over $700 million dollars lost or spent on aircraft over the past 20 years. Over all, the United States alone has lost $300 million annually, so you can tell the problem is not a small matter. Equally important are the fines handed out. Such as the case involving an international airport in France, where a flock of birds that was feasting on a carcass was neither reported nor removed before a jetliner was to depart. The plane received damage when it attempted to take-off but avoided serious consequences by shutting down just before the end of the runway. The airport was fined $3,000,000.

Along with the financial losses, there have been several injuries and, more importantly, human fatalities. Possibly the most dramatic military incident was one in which several birds flew into a plane cruising at a high altitude. Damage was done to the engines and cockpit windows, causing the plane to crash and kill all 24 passengers. Over the past 30 years, a total of 37 Air Force aircraft have been completely destroyed, bringing along with it 35 fatalities. One positive aspect to look at is when a strike occurs on a fighter jet. The fighter jet pilot has the option to eject if he or she cannot land the plane.

The money factor and human loss is definitely a major concern. But the environmental laws and compassion of many groups towards the surrounding habitat and the death of many birds, especially those that are extremely rare or on the endangered list are equally important. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department acknowledges each agency's mission.

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