When a flock of Canada geese collided with US Airways flight 1549, forcing Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to ditch the plane in the Hudson River in 2009, the threat that wildlife poses to aviators exploded onto the national stage.
Since then, ridding New Jersey’s airport runways of animals has become daily business for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Since 2008, the agency has killed nearly 6,000 animals, mainly birds, that have congregated in areas it deemed to be a threat to aircraft safety at Newark Liberty International and Teterboro airports.
The problem is, these efforts are having no significant impact. The birds, it seems, don’t know that they are supposed to be scared away.
An analysis of Port Authority and Federal Aviation Administration data by The Star-Ledger shows that though the agency has expanded its wildlife management program considerably since 2009, wildlife collisions with aircraft at New Jersey airports have not declined.
Though most wildlife strikes do not cause any issue, several planes arriving or departing from New Jersey airports typically do sustain damage each year.
An aircraft at one of the Port Authority’s New Jersey airports collides with an animal, typically a bird, about once every two days — a figure that has remained virtually unchanged every year since 2008, the year before the Flight 1549 crash.
During that time, however, the number of animals — from European starlings to foxes to the threatened American kestrel — killed by the Port Authority has skyrocketed. In Newark, for example, just 10 animals were killed by the agency in 2008, while 1,267 were killed two years later.