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It’s that time of year… BASH needs your help

Canadian geese are just one of the many birds and wildlife that can pose a risk to jets flying in and out of Buckley Air Force Base. Buckley’s Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards (BASH) working group proactively strives to reduce the amount of wildlife on and around the base to minimize the chances of an aircraft bird strike. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo by Ronald Laubenstein)

Canadian geese are just one of the many birds and wildlife that can pose a risk to jets flying in and out of Buckley Air Force Base. Buckley’s Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards (BASH) working group proactively strives to reduce the amount of wildlife on and around the base to minimize the chances of an aircraft bird strike. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo by Ronald Laubenstein)

BUCKLEY AFB, Colo. -- This time of year is full of significant events... Halloween, the changing foliage, Thanksgiving, and of course who can forget the annual bird migration? While many people stop to watch a flock of Canadian Geese fly overhead in their notorious V-formation, few realize the threat these, and other migratory birds are to the flying operations at Buckley Air Force Base.

In autumn, Buckley's Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards (BASH) program is in full swing. "This is the time of year when we typically have greater numbers of birds flying through our traffic pattern," said Lieutenant Col. Mitchell Neff, chief of safety, 140th Wing. "While it is fun to see big flocks heading south for the winter, it is a huge threat to our flying mission."

When birds are ingested into the engine of an F-16, the results can vary from minimal damages to totaling the multi-million dollar aircraft and hurting or even killing the pilot onboard, said Colonel Neff. "Even the most minor bird strikes require the engine to be removed and fully inspected for damages, which takes thousands of dollars' worth of time and manpower."

In order to reduce the probability of a bird strike, the BASH program incorporates several measures to minimize bird habitation on and near the base, including eliminating standing water, removing bird-friendly vegetation, and periodically sounding canons that scare birds away.

Furthermore, "the flight schedulers do what they can to help by not scheduling any take-offs or landings within at least an hour before sunset," he said.

While these efforts have significantly decreased the number of bird strikes over the past several years, Colonel Neff mentioned a few ways the local community can also help to discourage these birds from making Buckley AFB a stop on their migratory journey. These measures mainly pertain to the community within five miles from the base.

1. Don't feed birds or other wildlife in picnic areas, restaurant parking areas, or anywhere near the base.

2. Don't plant crops that attract birds, such as corn, sunflowers or berries.

3. Ensure all garbage containers and dumpsters remain closed.

4. Minimize standing water in ponds, landscaping, water retention areas, etc.

5. Anytime large or potentially hazardous birds or other wildlife concentrations are observed, call airfield management, (720) 847-9650 or the Safety offices at extension 9488 or 9472.

Even these small measures can contribute to fewer bird strike incidents, explained Colonel Neff. "The more the community helps us to deter birds from the base and surrounding areas, the safer it will be for our pilots and for that matter, the birds as well!"