Saturday, January 17, 2009

Goosed. Or, your plane is cooked.

The nerve of those geese, flying into the engine of US Airways Flight 1549! You'd think they were a bunch of terrorists!

And their numbers are growing.

In 1990 there were only 1,750 bird strikes reported. In 2007 there were 7,600. But for 2008, there will probably be 8,000 bird strikes reported. Can no one stop these flying marauders before they take down another defenseless airplane?

Well, actually...

Unbeknownst to me, and probably a lot of you, many airports around the world employ bird strike experts and goosers (which are not to be confused with this) and other (even lethal) means to scare birds away. At Boston's Logan Airport, and at other U.S. airports, they startle birds with propane cannons or other noisemakers. (Though really, wouldn't a real cannon, a la Admiral Boom's in Mary Poppins, be way more fun and effective?)

When that hasn't worked, some airports have been known to hire marksmen to shoot down birds, which is only slightly harder, though way more fun, than shooting fish in a barrel or skeet shooting. But apparently a bunch of conservationists cried "foul" (or was that "fowl"?) and most of the airports stopped the practice.

Other airports use dogs to chase away birds, though I didn't realize dogs could take to the air, which is, after all, where the threat is. (Though I have seen some pooches jump pretty high for Frisbees.) While still others use falcons. (Though isn't there then a risk of the falcon somehow getting sucked into an engine?)

But, I ask you, what about the geese? They were, technically, there first. And I am sure they don't purposely fly into jet engines (except for maybe those Japanese kamikaze geese). And think of Mother Goose! If not for yourself, then for the children. Surely the skies are big and friendly enough for us to share, yes?

And before you start sending me nasty comments about nasty geese and the Miracle on the Hudson, know that I, like you and everyone else, am relieved (make that ecstatic) that none of the passengers or crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549 were harmed or seriously injured after the pilot, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III, heroically landed the plane in the Hudson River on Thursday after what could have been another fatal bird strike. I even teared up while reading this account of the incident in the New York Times this morning.

Anyway, for more about this fascinating subject and what airports can and are doing to prevent bird strikes on unsuspecting planes, check out this informative article in Scientific American.

As for me, I think I'll bring along our cats on our next plane trip. And will just pray that come springtime some angry geese don't decide to take their revenge on our lawn.


jjv said...

Actually, it is not true that the geese "were there first." Certainly not in winter. Canadian geese used to migrate. It is only the endless stream of food that they can now obtain even in winter that has allowed them to be sucked into NY jet engines in January. In any case, there are too many Canadian geese. They should be labeled "varmints" and people should be able to kill them any time for any reason. Any goose loving whiners should be hurled into a jet engine after being rolled on a lawn covered in goose leavings.

J. said...

So how do you REALLY feel about geese, JJV? ; ) And who new the airplane came before the goose? I must have missed the bit of news about scientists discovering million-year-old airplane fossils.

EMM said...

I think the geese are just trying to get back at the airplane, a similar "bird", that took away one of their own, Lt.JG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw in Top Gun.

Or maybe they feel the need, the need for speed!

I'll stop now.