Bob Hope Airport is launching its first-ever study of wildlife in an effort to reduce the odds of potentially dangerous collisions between birds and aircraft.
The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority this week approved a $126,000, yearlong study of wildlife to meet the Federal Aviation Administration requirements, which were spurred by concerns of so-called bird strikes, according to airport executive director Dan Feger.
Since 1990, 273 bird strikes have occurred at Bob Hope Airport, according to the FAA. Airport spokesman Victor Gill said none has proven to be serious.
However, he said Bob Hope Airport has “one or two reportable instances in the last several years” where an aircraft returned to the airport after a bird strike for safety reasons before departing again.
Bird strikes came into the public eye on Jan. 15, 2009, when a flock of geese was sucked into the engines of a U.S. Airways flight leaving LaGuardia Airport in New York, causing the plane to lose power and land in the Hudson River.
FAA rules require airports to conduct studies if planes are damaged by or experience multiple bird strikes, if their engines “ingest” birds, or if large numbers of birds are seen near the airport.
In 2004, the FAA estimated that bird strikes cause roughly $500 million worth of damage to aircraft each year.
According to the FAA database, rock pigeons are the most common victims of the clashes at Bob Hope Airport. Pigeons, mourning doves, sparrows, crows, red-tailed hawks and falcons are the birds seen most at the airport, according to a report to the authority.
In 2009, Gill said, airport workers spotted three Cooper’s hawks frequenting the field by the runways. The airport contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture and set a live trap for the birds. After two days, one hawk flew in and was subsequently released away from the airfield. The others never returned, Gill said.
The study approved on Monday requires at least two site visits by consultants per month for 12 months, as well as an assessment of bird activity at golf courses and other sites within five miles of the airport. The assessment will likely wrap up by spring 2012.