How Artificial Turf Can Shoo Away Bird Strikes

Artificial turf could help reduce dangerous bird strikes

By Kevin Cokely
|  Wednesday, May 19, 2010  |  Updated 9:11 AM CDT
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Bye, Bye, Birdie

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Bye, Bye, Birdie

Birds and wildlife on airfields can be a major runway safety concern for airports across the globe. That's why aviation experts from around the world are meeting in DFW to find more ways to avoid birdstrikes.
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Athletes of all ages have been playing on artificial turf for decades, but airports are finding new uses for it.

Airports in Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore already line their runways with "Avturf," which is manufactured by a Southlake company, to help keep birds away from planes.

"This is primarily the same stuff that you see on the football field," said Avturf's Daniel McSwain.

Natural grass near runways offer food, water and shelter for birds, he said.

"What we do is take away food, water and shelter," McSwain said.

A bird strike brought down US Airways Flight 1549, which landed in New York's Hudson River on Jan. 15, 2009.

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which reported 333 bird strikes in 2009, already employs several methods to keep birds away, including noisemakers, pyrotechnics and even the use of other birds, such as falcons.

But adding artificial turf may not be out of the question.

"If it's a worthy idea and we see that other airports are doing it, we'll certainly look at it and certainly assess whether it makes sense for us," said airport spokesman David Magana.

Executives from airports across the country are meeting this week in Dallas and shared more than a dozen ways to reduce dangerous bird strikes, including a special radar to spot nearby birds.

"I don't think we'll ever ever get to a point where we won't have bird strikes," said John Ostrom, the manager of air-side operations at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and a recognized expert in bird strikes. "The goal is to reduce the risk as much as possible."

The bird radar shows promise. Tested at DFW Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration is now trying to perfect the radar's software.

"Until we can build a dome over our airports, we'll always have birds around an airport," Ostrom said.

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