Sarasota airport uses loud, scary sounds to keep birds away from planes

Sarasota airport uses loud, scary sounds to keep birds away from planes (Image 1)

Federal investigators in Maryland are working to determine the cause of a plane crash that killed six people in Gaithersburg.

A bird strike may have been factor, since radio traffic reported a number of birds in the area prior to the crash. The FAA says in 2013, there were 10,856 bird strikes. Birds can cause severe damage or destruction to aircraft, so airport officials take it seriously.

At Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, there is a team of workers who comb the grounds every day to scare off the animals. They use a variety of devices to ward them away. 

Supervisor of Operations Roger Widrick has been spending the last 26 years shooting at birds.”The bigger the bird, the more damage it can do to an airplane,” said Widrick.

Federal regulations allow airports to kill the animals if needed, but here in Sarasota, airport officials use fear instead.

They fire blank pistols with small pyrotechnic devices called ‘bangers’ and ‘screamers’. ‘Bangers’ fly thirty feet and cause a loud bang. ‘Screamers’ fly 150 feet and emit a shrilling, whistling noise. 

They also fire ‘shell crackers’ out of shotguns. These pyrotechnic devices fly 300 feet and create a loud bang.

“By scaring them we create a behavior modification that teaches them this is not a good place for them to be,” explained Widrick.

In addition, airport crews keep the grass cut low, and design their retention ponds to discourage wading birds.

Airport officials want to make the runway a very uncomfortable spot, so animals will avoid it.

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