Falcons Protect Against Bird Strikes At Fairchild - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Falcons Protect Against Bird Strikes At Fairchild

If you visit Fairchild Air Force Base you will notice that the planes are not the only things flying on the runway. Before each take off and landing, David Knutson flies his falcons he has trained to scare other birds away from the planes. If you visit Fairchild Air Force Base you will notice that the planes are not the only things flying on the runway. Before each take off and landing, David Knutson flies his falcons he has trained to scare other birds away from the planes.
Fairchild AFB, Wash. -

Dozens of airplanes fly out of Fairchild Air Force Base every month, but before each take off and landing a special team of falcons clear the runway. Bird strikes are one of the most common problems when it comes to plane safety, so Fairchild started a program to protect the planes and everyone on board.

It is not your average nine to five job.

"This is our exercise lure and it's kind of like fish in the sky, but a little bit different," said David Knutson, a contractor who heads the falcon program at Fairchild.

His co-workers are anything, but regular.

"Skype is four years old and he thinks he owns this place," Knutson said.

If you visit Fairchild Air Force Base you will notice that the planes are not the only things flying on the runway. Before each take off and landing, David Knutson flies his falcons he has trained to scare other birds away from the planes.

There is the Grinch, the newest member of the team.

"He's brand new this year and we're just getting started with him out at the base," Knutson said.

Then there is Skype, the flashy one.

"He has scared so many birds away from that runway just in the way that he flies," Knutson said.

And Kinch, the secret weapon.

"When I need a big stick and I need something that's going to be really aggressive on some big birds, I can fly Kinch," Knuston said.

Knutson uses falcons along with trained dogs as a way to protect planes from bird strikes that can be both costly and deadly.

"It started when there was a terrible bird strike crash at Elmendorf in Alaska," Knuston said.

"The geese never seemed to pose a problem until one day the AWACS jet was getting ready to take off, and the geese got up and flew across the runway and took the jet down and killed everybody on board," Knutson said.

The year before Knutson started working on the runway, Fairchild Air Force Base also had a costly bird strike.

"The jet stayed down, it ruined some engines," Knutson said. "I think it was $265,000 dollars just in that one bird strike."

Therefore, the base decided to come up with a solution: The Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard or BASH Program.

"Very few airfields had tried this and Fairchild being as proactive as they've always been they wanted to try this," Knutson said.

It is a program that seems to be working.

"We eliminated damaging bird strikes that year and it went on for seven years without any damaging bird strikes, so immediately they could see an impact," Knutson said.

"We've made huge, huge inclines in not having damage to the aircraft and don't have to worry about jeopardizing lives," said Sergeant Joel Jones with the 92 Air Refueling Wing Safety Office at Fairchild.

So everyday, David is on the runway.

"I think the trick is to make it look easy and sometimes you can actually pull it off," Knutson said.

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