How does wildlife mitigation at an airport keep travelers safe?

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – It’s not uncommon for a bird and plane to collide, but the damage to the Utah Jazz’s plane was more than the Salt Lake International Airport had seen in at least 10 years. This incident serves as a reminder of why wildlife mitigation efforts are crucial to keeping travelers safe.

The plane carrying Utah Jazz players struck a flock of birds Tuesday, causing an engine fire and failure – the plane returning to the airport for an emergency landing. No injuries were reported.

Nearly 277,000 planes flew in and out of Salt Lake last year. The airport reporting 163 bird strikes and only eight aircraft being damaged.

“We do see strikes regularly. But this one was significant,” said Candace Deavila, the airport’s wildlife manager.

The Federal Aviation Association reports 39 strikes happen daily, almost all involving birds.

The news of Tuesday’s situation tough for her to hear, but to an extent out of their control.

“It was about three miles out,” Deavila said. “We’re talking about 4,000 feet that the strike happened. Which is a lot higher than we have tools to reach when you’re talking three miles off the airport environment.”

Throughout the airport’s five miles of property, traps are set, catching a variety of animals – not just birds.

“We’ve seen skunks, racoons, foxes – even stray cats,” Deavila said.

These traps are set to keep wildlife off the runways and from interfering with air traffic and keeping travelers safe.

“A lot of people think, oh they’re a little bird, they’re not gonna cause as much damage and that’s not the case,” she said. “Even a bird the size of a starling can significantly damage an aircraft.”

Deavila showed ABC4 News Two Red-tailed Hawks that were caught at the airport Tuesday, along with several Starlings and House Sparrows.

The hawks were to be released Wednesday afternoon with a tag – entering them into the United States Geological Survey.

Deavila said that data is used to track lifestyle and migratory patterns.

It’s not known yet what kind of species hit the Jazz plane. An investigation is underway and Deavila said that information will allow them to better understand how to work with the birds and their flight path.

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