MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
According to the Department of the Navy, Naval Aviators have reported over 16,550 bird strikes which resulted in over 440 aircraft mishaps, 250 foreign object damaged (FOD) engines and $372 million in damage costs since 1981. To preserve warfighting capabilities to the operating forces through the reduction of wildlife hazards to aircraft operations, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Camp Pendleton employs its Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) prevention program which furthermore manages risk by collecting and analyzing wildlife strike data through coordinated efforts across each element supporting the aviation mission.
Another function of the air station’s BASH program is to identify specific bird types involved, and where the location of the strike takes place. In doing so, data collectors, researchers and air station operators can better understand why a particular type of bird is attracted to a particular area of the airfield or training route.
“Our job is to prevent mishaps.” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Andrew Lincoln, aviation safety officer, Marine Corps Installations West. “Doing so we can assure everyone comes home safely.”
MCAS Camp Pendleton’s BASH program is conducted on multiple levels. Its pilots are encouraged to report collisions during flights, and aviation mechanics inspect aircraft for wildlife remains so they can be collected and turned in for analysis. Additionally, MCAS Camp Pendleton buildings and training areas on or around the flight paths are designed or modified to be less attractive for wildlife to inhabit by blocking them with protective netting or spiked perch stops as examples. Other installations are known to have loud noise producing machines on the air station or hired contractors to eliminate threats of collisions in air space by exterminating over populated pest birds or shooting blank ammunition to scare the birds into relocating.
“If you look around the hangars you will see precautionary measures in place” said Lincoln, “There are rough surfaces on the roofs of the installation to make it unattractive for nesting.”
The control tower also has a role in the BASH program, and is in charge of assessing airspace to ensure safe flight operations. They will notify pilots if the area they will be flying in has visible or otherwise potential hazards including large flocks of birds.
“If we do see activity we broadcast it for 15 minutes” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Jesse Adkison, air traffic control facility officer, MCAS Camp Pendleton. “If significant enough we will broadcast the wildlife activity on our Automatic Terminal Information Service until it is no longer a factor.”
Though MCAS Camp Pendleton isn't overly populated with wildlife that may create hazardous situations for aviators, MCAS Camp Pendleton employs additional precautions to include poison boxes to curb any threats.
“Any strike with an aircraft is a significant impact to the aircraft,” added Adkison. “You'd be surprised what a small bird could do to an aircraft moving at excessive speed.”
Protecting lives and property are of the highest priority, and MCAS Camp Pendleton’s BASH program focuses on this importance through its application of dedicated resources, data collection, training and effective monitoring programs.