BASH program helps reduce threats

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexandra M. Boutte
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
A hawk soars through the breeze with his nest as his goal. A gust of wind moves him in the path of an aircraft engine- POP- and feathers floating in the air are all that remain.
Members of the 509th Bomb Wing safety office manage the Bird Airfield Strike Hazard program and the 509th Operation Support Squadron's Wildlife Services Department implements the program.

The offices come together and monitor, evaluate and, where needed, eliminate bird threats so the aircraft based here can complete their missions. The program concentrates on reducing the number of wildlife on or near the airfield.
An Air Force jet at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska collided with a flock of 30 Canadian geese in 1995, causing the plane to crash shortly after takeoff and killing all 24 crew members.

The Air Force sustains significant losses each year to bird strikes. All aircraft are susceptible to bird strikes in every flight profile.

"The BASH program's main objective is to reduce the overall number of wildlife hazards to the aircraft and personnel stationed here at Whiteman AFB," said Tech. Sgt. Landon Scheer, 509th BW safety office. "All birds and wildlife can pose a threat to the B-2 and our Airmen."

The primary threat to the B-2s are large birds of prey and migratory birds, according to the bomb wing safety office.

According to the wildlife biologists, habitat management and population control are the most important methods of reducing bird strikes.

"Birds are not entirely unpredictable," said Mr. Todd Stewart, 509th OSS, U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist. "However, strikes are more likely to occur at particular times of the year or day around bird concentration areas. We can reduce losses by controlling or avoiding the predictable bird hazard."

"We use a variety of actions to prevent bird strikes," Mr. Stewart said. "Procedures include maintaining airfield grass, water sources, grazing and cropland. We also provide animal control; eliminate nesting and the use of bird radars to collect data on movement and activity."

Airfield grass is maintained between seven and 14 inches which discourages flocking bird species from using the airfield because the lack of visibility disrupts the flock integrity and prevents predator detection.

As part of the bird harassment team, wildlife service officials take a proactive approach when it comes to the BASH program.

"We trap animals that are prey for birds and relocate or dispose of them properly," Mr. Stewart said. "The less rodents we have to attract the birds, they better our chances we have of getting rid of them on the airfield."

The base wildlife biologists obtain blood samples of the caught animals and birds and send them to a lab for analysis.

"It is important to understand that the BASH program is comprehensive in nature and centered on the mission," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schhreiner, 509th BW, chief of safety. "Multiple base agencies go to great lengths to ensure our aircraft are safe while at the same time finding excellent eco-friendly balance with indigenous wildlife in the area. It's part science, part technology, with a very small amount of physical effort. A common misconception of BASH is that it's simply shooting birds...nothing could be farther from the truth."