Crews use lasers, air cannons to keep birds away from planes in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. — Every year, there are roughly 75 incidents at the Portland International Airport that involve birds colliding with planes, according to the Port of Portland.
Nick Atwell, the Port of Portland’s Wildlife Manager, said he and his staff patrol the airport grounds daily, harassing, scaring away, and even trapping birds that could pose a threat to planes.
“About 90 percent of them occur under 3000 feet,” Atwell told KPTV. “So we are really diligent about providing a safe airfield environment.”
In late September, a bird strike Atwell couldn’t have prevented forced a plane to make an emergency landing at PDX.
Atwell said a Boeing 737 hit a flock of geese at an elevation of about 5000 feet, roughly seven miles from the airport.
The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing after the cockpit filled with smoke.
“Bird strikes are a very real and growing threat for the aviation industry,” Doug LaPlaca explained.
LaPlaca, the CEO of Precise Flight, Inc., which provides airlines with onboard bird strike reduction systems, said modifying a plane’s electrical system and existing lighting to pulse can reduce the number of close encounters with birds.
“The net effect is it gives a stronger illustration of the size and speed of the aircraft,” he said.
Atwell and his crew, meanwhile, focus their efforts on the ground, using lasers, air cannons, and traps to discourage birds from interfering with planes.
While most bird strikes don’t do any serious damage to a plane, the airline industry estimates bird strikes have caused close to $3 billion in damage a year, worldwide.