A different type of defender at Kunsan Air Base

by Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Certain individuals are a nuisance to the flight line and the operations conducted there. They congregate around the runway and can cause thousands of dollars in damage to aircraft if left unmanaged. This troublesome group isn’t the typical adversary: they are birds.

Master Sgt. Theodore Muto, 8th Fighter Wing flight safety manager, and the Bird and Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard group, also known as BASH, help control the population of birds and other animals around the flight line using a variety of methods.

“A lot of people discount it saying … ‘We don’t need this. These are silly birds.’ Until a bird goes down the [intake] … that right there justifies the program,” said Muto.

This year at Kunsan Air Base, there have been three bird-aircraft strikes, with one incident causing over $50,000 worth of damage when a bird went into a jet’s intake system.

The BASH team consists of over 40 volunteers who work to prevent aircraft mishaps such as these.

“Our biggest concern is to make sure the runway is clear,” Muto said. “First, you want to try to scare the animals away. Birds tend to fly around in circles and come back like a boomerang.”

To prevent them from continuously coming back, BASH members do what they can to reduce the bird population on base, including using air cannons, which make a loud noise to startle the flocks and keep both animals and aircraft safe. There are 26 of these cannons installed around the perimeter of the runway and they are routinely fired via remote control to ensure the airfield is clear before takeoff. BASH members also employ shotguns if needed.

One of the BASH members, Tech. Sgt. Erick Hall, 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer, sees the program as an extension of his job.

“I already take care of all the different aircrew safety requirements for a lot of the pilots’ gear,” said Hall. “I can continue that by preventing bird and mammalian strikes that could cause an aircraft to go down and prevent them from having to use [that] equipment.”

Muto emphasized the importance of BASH’s role in ensuring pilots have a safe environment in which to operate.

“The ultimate goal is to shoot for zero bird strikes,” he said.

For more information on the BASH program, please call the Flight Safety office at DSN 782-4832.

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