BASH program keeps birds off airfield
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Enemy forces haven't shot down a U.S. Air Force aircraft since the Korean War, but the skies have another type of danger pilots need to worry about; birds. They can collide with aircraft and cause thousands of dollars in damage.
The bird aircraft strike hazard program's mission is to provide pilots with a safe operating environment to conduct both peacetime and wartime operations by reducing the potential threat of wildlife strikes and maintaining combat capability.
"It's important to protect the Air Forces' assets, the aircraft and the pilot, because birds and wildlife in general present a huge hazard," said Michael Rosen, 51st Fighter Wing Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program superintendent.
Osan lies on three major migratory flyways. The migration activity in these flyways is most active during the months of March through May and August through October.
The BASH program was established here in 2004 after an F-16 hit a bird and crashed near the Doolittle gate. It was put in place here to manage the bird population around the airfield
The program uses both active and passive methods to ensure the amount of birds around the flight line are kept to a minimum.
The active methods are used to disperse and scare the birds away from the airfield. These methods include using 30 bird cannons, propane powered cannons that produce harmless bangs to disperse birds and wildlife, that are strategically placed all over the airfield, driving around with a siren and shooting non-lethal burst shotgun rounds in to the air to chase them away.
Passive methods are used to prevent birds from creating a permanent habitat for themselves on the airfield. These methods include managing the grass height at 7 to 14 inches, having bird spikes on signs so the birds do not perch and buoys with Mylar streamers placed in the river.
According to Rosen these methods have been extremely effective but they do not keep the birds away permanently.
"We haven't lost an aircraft to a bird strike since 2003," said Rosen. "But it's a constant battle every day. We chase the birds away, the planes take off and they come back for us to chase them away again,"
From a pilot's perspective the BASH program has been effective as well.
"Over the last 5 years there have been marked decreases in bird strikes and damage caused to aircraft," said Maj. Pete Moughan, 51st Fighter Wing Flight Safety chief and A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot.
The ultimate goal of the program is to ensure that the unnecessary risk of a bird strike is prevented. As well as making sure the pilots and their aircrafts are keep safe.
"The farther away the birds get from the runway the safer it is for them, the pilot and the aircraft," said Rosen. "We want to prevent birds hitting an aircraft whether it's damaging it or not."