Bird Radar at DFW Airport Tested, But Not Ready

Radar system tested five years ago not yet in place, airport officials say

New radar technology that could help warn pilots about flocks of birds was tested at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport five years ago, but is not yet ready to implement, airport officials said.

U.S. Airways flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River in New York on Thursday afternoon after apparently hitting a flock of geese.

"We average about 130 bird strikes with aircraft every year," said Jim Crites, DFW Airport’s executive vice president, when the test program was announced in 2004. “It's a very dangerous proposition."

More testing is planned for later this year, said a DFW Airport spokesman. He said the radar system is being developed by the Federal Aviation Administration, not the airport.

Birds have been a concern at DFW and other major airports for years.

"A jet engine is very critical in balance,” said Dallas aviation analyst Denny Kelley. "They crack a blade or they do this or that, and the engine starts vibrating and comes apart. I mean, in some cases, they explode."

One study showed a 4-pound bird can exert more than 6 tons of force if hit by a plane traveling 200 mph.

On Jan. 7,1997, an American jet struck 400 birds after taking off at DFW. The pilot declared an emergency and returned to the airport. The engine was replaced.

On Feb. 24, 2002, also at DFW, another jet on takeoff struck a flock of geese. The nose and several blades were damaged.  Replacing the engine cost $654,000.

"DFW has had a problem,” Kelley said. “But they've had an eradication program for several years."

Airport workers use loud noises to try to scare away flocks of birds, a spokesman said.

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