Reported Bird Strikes on the Rise at Philly Airport in Years Following "Miracle on the Hudson"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    On the five year anniversary of the "Miracle on the Hudson," NBC10 uncovered a disturbing trend. Reported bird strikes are dramatically on the rise at Philly International. NBC10's Chris Cato has the details.

    Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the Miracle on the Hudson.

    On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Suddenly, the plane struck a flock of geese and lost engine power. The pilot “Sully” Sullenberger, made an emergency landing in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers.

    Following the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration instructed airports across the country to do something about bird populations around their property. The NBC10 Investigators uncovered however that the number of reported bird strikes has increased dramatically at Philadelphia International Airport.

    In the years following the “Miracle,” 731 bird strikes have been reported. In the five years before the miracle, only 317 bird strikes were reported.  At 131%, it’s the sharpest increase of reported bird strikes in the country.

    NBC10 presented those numbers to Keith Brune, Philly International’s deputy director. Brune insisted that the sharp increase is due to the fact that bird strikes are now reported much more often than they were five years ago.

    “We do everything possible to make it unpalatable for birds or wildlife to hang out here,” said Brune.

    Philadelphia International has two biologists who track bird populations within five miles of the airport. They also have a staff of 35 people who patrol the airfield and perimeter. The staff members use several tactics to scare off birds, including shooting flare guns.

    However, NBC10’s Chris Cato still spotted plenty of birds around or on airport property on Wednesday. In less than an hour, a hawk was spotted circling in the same area where planes were landing, Canada geese were seen swimming near the airport and a flock of small black birds were perched on the fence just beyond the runway.

    Brune says studies have shown that the bird population on airport property has actually decreased but that there’s not much they can do about birds beyond their fence line.

    “We’re doing virtually everything we can short of putting some sort of big dome over our airport,” he said.

    The FAA mandated airports are responsible for bird activity within a five mile radius of their facility.

    “If we do identify areas where there are potential hazards we will try to work with those respectful landowners to help them with their problem, which in effect helps us,” Brune said.

    The FAA vowed to crack down on airports that are not being proactive about reducing bird strikes. NBC10 asked FAA officials for their assessment of Philly International’s bird management strategy. The FAA refused to comment on this however.

    The FAA’s latest inspection report of PHL does not mention bird activity or bird strikes.