Even small wildlife poses a threat to jet engines

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mitchell Neff
  • 140th Wing Safety Office, COANG
While the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards (BASH) program at Buckley Air Force Base is always a work in progress, where success is measured by "zero incidents," this past year has been an extremely incident-free one. For those of you who are superstitious like me, "knock on wood" because the migratory season is soon approaching and geese will be flying overhead.

This year, only eight bird strikes (all of which were Larks) have been recorded and the damage has been relatively minimal compared to a large bird strike. When a large bird is hit, say a goose or a turkey vulture, catastrophic damage can result in millions of dollars in repairs. However, when smaller birds are struck or go down the engine intake, the damage is more minimal yet not completely negligible. The engine still requires a thorough inspection for turbine and fan blade damage. Hundreds of man hours are usually required for inspection and cleaning the bird debris found in the engine. This can cost upwards to $6,000 depending on the severity.

The Horned Lark is a common, widespread bird of open country, which is plentiful around Buckley AFB. Mowed, grassy areas around airstrips have allowed the Horned Lark to colonize regions where no other suitable habitat, such as heavily forested areas, may exist nearby. Therefore, not much can be done to deter this type of bird other than to monitor how often the grass is mowed and keep it relatively high (7-14 inches).

The BASH working group is consistently working to minimize the presence of wildlife, such as the Horned Lark, that is a threat to flying operations on the installation, however it is a constant battle.

A BASH meeting is held once a month with the number one objective to prevent wildlife-related aircraft mishaps and reduce the potential for wildlife hazards to aircraft operations. If you have any questions or concerns please call the 460th or 140th Safety Offices at 847-6355/9488.