Tall prairie grass helps airports keep birds from runway

There were 11,315 reported wildlife strikes by aircrafts in 2013.
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 12, 2014 at 4:36 PM
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DAYTON, Ohio, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Some 300 acres surrounding the runways at Dayton International Airport are being planted with prairie grass and being converted into un-mowed fields as a way to deter deadly bird strikes.

Dayton is one of several airports that have looked to change their landscaping tactics as a way to keep wildlife from encroaching on airport facilities, specifically runways. Collisions between wildlife and airplanes are common at airports throughout the United States, but the most problematic species is the Canada goose.

Flocks of geese regularly gather on the short open grasses that often abut airport runways. When they take off in groups, they can quickly find themselves in the path of a jumbo jet moving at speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour. Officials say taller prairie grasses can deter birds, which don't feel comfortable surrounded by tall grasses where predators can lurk undetected.

According to the FAA, there were a reported 11,315 wildlife strikes by aircrafts in 2013 -- 97 percent of those involved birds. Between 1988 and 2013, 255 people died as a result of airplane and wildlife collisions.

Airports that have installed taller grasses include Baltimore Washington International, Erie International, San Francisco International, Rochester International, Portland International in Oregon, Elmira Corning Regional Airport in New York, and Chicago Rockford in Illinois.

One of the people benefiting financially for this move by airport managers and aviation safety officials is Christina Kobland; she's an inventor who has begun selling her patented and trademarked grass called FlightTurf to projects similar to Dayton's.

"Reduced mowing eliminates runway incursion, a costly safety issue," Kobland told the Chestnut Hill Local. "In some situations, airports implement a full or partial closure for mowing alone. Less mowing also significantly decreases the flush of insects, mutilation of small animals and production of hay, all of which unduly attracts wildlife."

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