Airport pig project aims to minimise bird strikes

JetBlue and barnyard birds have managed to coexist for decades in New York’s John F Kennedy airport, yet the city’s biggest airport is turning to pigs – or pigs plus birds – to keep the public safe.

Instead of moving thousands of barnyard birds off the airfield at JFK, the New York fire department has introduced a pig named Bumblebee to graze in brush alongside runways to keep the 1,300 annual ground squirrel sightings at bay.

A six-week pilot program, launched earlier this month, continues to run at the airport. In the first two weeks, 80% of the 9,000 ground squirrels spotted at the airport failed to emerge after sunset.

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About 110 miles to the west, in Los Angeles, one of the airport’s three airports is now set up with rooftop stables for bees.

And at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, the airport authority paid for an animal husbandry pilot to develop a plan to ensure that a major bird strike incident could be avoided.

The two universities studying the project, Cornell and Georgia Tech, plan to deploy test pigs that have actually been damaged by live birds to prove that, in the jargon of aviation, “live affects on pig research”.

The project is intended to test the strategies airlines and air traffic controllers have for dealing with bird strikes in the airline industry, with a view to suggesting ways to minimise accidents at airports.

In April 2015, a plane skidded off a runway at London Heathrow after a strike from a cormorant, prompting the government to put in place a test case allowing them to destroy the birds immediately to ease the airspace.

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