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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2016

Increased measures to prevent aircraft mishaps

By Christopher Anderson JB Charleston Safety director

Joint Base Charleston officials authorized an escalation in the base’s ongoing efforts to prevent aircraft bird strikes in the vicinity of the air base.


Due to an expected large migratory increase in the number of geese inhabiting areas surrounding the airfield and their growing immunity to other bird-removal tactics, officials approved the supervised use of firearms to decrease and deter the geese population. The goose population is expected to increase like it did last year when the first off-airfield depredation plan was initiated.


Base residents should be aware of this escalation. There will be instances where the U.S. Department of Agriculture may need to depredate near base housing. As an additional safety measure, the current plan is to remain 100 yards from the base housing perimeter. The only exception to depredation inside the base housing perimeter will occur at the pond located on W. Jackson Dr. adjacent to the Forest City housing office. The USDA will continue to use nonlethal deterrents, such as paint ball guns, inside all base housing areas.


Bird strikes, especially among large fowl like geese and vultures, pose significant threats to aircrews, as well as people who live and work near the air base. Each year, civil and military aircraft strike thousands of birds and some planes—like U.S. Airways Flight 1549 which did an emergency landing in the Hudson River—crash as a result. Base leaders approved the bird-depredation tactic to prevent just such an incident.


“The installation’s current plan involves necessary prudent checks and balances to prevent the risk of a safety mishap to our base members and their families,” said Col. Rob Lyman, Joint Base Charleston commander. “Please be assured that our team has numerous checks in place to both minimize risks and ensure the right actions are taken to prevent future strikes,” said Lyman.


Before USDA representatives begin depredating efforts, they must obtain approval from the 628 ABW commander or his designated representative. The USDA representatives will coordinate with base security forces personnel, who will escort them to the scene ensuring the general public’s safety and the area is free of uninvolved personnel.


Populated areas on the installation will be assessed for risk and if the order to remove the geese is given, will receive notification as early as possible before removal efforts begin. All firing will be done while the birds are on the ground and in such a way as to avoid any buildings, structures or people. Finally, the USDA representatives will only use birdshot (the smallest type of ammo for shotguns), to further reduce the risk of injury or damage on base.


“We have used this tactic on the airfield for several years and we rarely find geese inhabiting the area any longer. However, a serious threat of bird strikes still remains from flocks further inside the base,” said Christopher Anderson, 628 ABW Director of safety.


Previously, base officials used non-lethal tactics such as loud noises and paintball guns to deter the geese. Though effective at first, the birds have since become immune, Anderson said.


When possible, any birds killed will be transported to a processor so the meat can be donated  to those in need, Anderson said.


"If unaddressed, large populations of geese on the air base could result in a Bird Watch Condition rating of 'severe,' which would prevent DoD aircraft from landing here," said Lt. Col. Fisher, Chief of 437th AW Flight Safety.


For further questions about the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program at JB Charleston, contact the Public Affairs office at (843) 963-5608.