NEWS | Sept. 25, 2013

Joint Base Safety Office implementing new measures against growing flocks

By Capt. Frank Hartnett Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs officer

The Joint Base Charleston Safety Office and local representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are working together to address a growing problem on the installation.

Concentrations of non-migratory Canadian Geese on air base property have steadily increased this year, with some flocks numbering more than 100 birds.

The geese are a nuisance for residents and present a safety hazard to the nearby airfield which hosts more than 100,000 take-offs and landings of military, commercial and civil aircraft annually.

According to FAA records, JB Charleston and Charleston International Airport have averaged 24 bird strikes a year since 1990. Most of these strikes result in little damage to the aircraft, however any bird strike has the potential to turn into a tragedy.

On Sept. 22, 1995, an E-3 Sentry aircraft operating from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska., crashed when its engines were disabled after ingesting Canadian Geese. Twenty-four U.S. and Canadian aircrew died and the aircraft was destroyed in the crash.

More recently, in January 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 taking off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City struck a flock of Canadian Geese shortly after takeoff. The crew, led by Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, successfully ditched the aircraft into the Hudson River; all 155 passengers and crew survived.

Bird strikes also create costly damages. Since 2000, there have been 21 Class-A bird strikes in the Air Force. In each instance, the damages were valued at more than $1 million to the aircraft.

Due to these dangers to both military aircrews and the travelling public, additional measures are being taken to disperse the unwanted geese.

Beginning next week, Safety office personnel and USDA technicians will harass geese through the use of paintball markers. Paintball markers are a cost-effective method intended to provide a non-lethal option to disperse flocks. This activity is authorized by federal permits issued to JB Charleston. Only designated personnel will be authorized to take part in this effort and will follow guidance regarding the use of the markers. Also, dispersal efforts will be conducted in close coordination with local air traffic control to ensure these efforts are not conducted during peak operations and communications will take place in real time to provide location and heading of the flock.

"We want to ensure our efforts provide the best results without creating additional problems," said Capt. Brent Droze, 437th Airlift Wing flight safety officer. "Our safety crews will make sure to use a disciplined approach for the well-being of the wildlife."

In addition, the installation will continue to use landscaping designs to make the air base a less attractive location for Canadian Geese. These designs include installing aerators in ponds and bordering ponds with bushes.

"This is a total effort using many different options," said Chris Anderson, 628th Air Base Wing, Chief of Safety. "Geese are a pervasive danger to air operations and their presence is a potential threat to the Airmen and public who fly from Charleston International Airport. It's our responsibility to provide for the safety of those who rely on Joint Base Charleston's wildlife management program."