Category Archives: Environmental Affairs

Airports and Wildlife: Why Doesn’t the Today Show Present the Full Story?

“Why don’t more airports use radar to prevent dangerous bird strikes?” blared the headline from a segment that aired on yesterday’s broadcast of Today (February 19). Although the reporter in the piece never provided an answer to this question, he did charge ahead in pursuit of an agenda that implied U.S. airports aren’t committed to safety. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The report ignored the work that thousands of airport professionals do to mitigate wildlife hazards every day and the millions of dollars that they invest every year on fencing, habitat management, wildlife harassment, and wildlife monitoring activities, all of which have been effective in reducing wildlife hazards at our nation’s airports. The report also sidestepped any mention of significant wildlife hazard management requirements that the FAA has on the books. These include conducting wildlife hazard assessments and developing, implementing, and regularly updating comprehensive wildlife hazard management plans. These plans and the resources airports dedicate to implementing them provide concrete evidence of how seriously airports take wildlife hazards.

Although avian radar systems can be components of such plans, many airports have found that other hazard mitigations provide greater safety benefits and address their specific wildlife management challenges most effectively. These decisions have been made by highly trained professionals at our airports—including qualified wildlife biologists—based on data, detailed assessment of wildlife hazards, and understandings of their local airports’ circumstances. (That’s certainly the engineer in me talking, which I’m sure doesn’t make for a good soundbite.)

Airport professionals are called upon to make decisions about the technologies, processes, procedures, and capital investments that will produce the best safety outcomes given available resources, be those people, money, or time. Yet at the same time, airports have been unnecessarily constrained in terms of how they can finance these solutions.  Specifically, we’ve seen Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding decrease and the purchasing power of its companion funding mechanism, the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee, decline by half over time even as new, promising safety technologies like avian radar have emerged.

The Today reporter did acknowledge that avian radar is expensive at the conclusion of his segment, but his insinuation that individual airports just don’t want to foot the bill at the expense of safety is a simplistic and dangerous misrepresentation.  Introducing new legislation to require the use of avian radar at all U.S. airports would only create a yet another unfunded mandate for airports.  Instead, the smarter solution would be for Congress to implement common-sense reforms to airport funding mechanisms that ensure they both provide sustainable and secure support to maintain our current airport system and invest in new and emerging technologies like avian radar.

Ultimately, though, why not focus on all the important elements that make up managing wildlife hazards at airports instead of making ill-informed assumptions? I’ve got some ideas, but am guessing they don’t make for good TV.

Chris Oswald
Vice President, Safety and Regulatory Affairs

Earth Week 2014: Wildlife Management at YVR: Birds with Jobs

by David Bradbeer
Wildlife Program Specialist
Vancouver Airport Authority

Safety and security is at the heart of Vancouver International Airport’s operations. An essential part of our mandate is ensuring the safe and efficient movement of aircraft and passengers to and from our airport, and that’s why we have a comprehensive wildlife management program in place.

Given our location along the Pacific Flyway, Sea Island is home to several local bird species, as well as a popular stopover for flocks of migratory birds heading south or north, depending on the season. The proximity of feathered birds to metal birds poses a serious risk to aviation safety. To combat potential bird strikes, our wildlife program consists of four components: monitoring, habitat management, movement of birds through harassment techniques and, where there is a perceived safety risk to aviation, killing of birds.

One relatively new element of our habitat management and bird movement plan is the use of trained raptors. We use falcons, hawks and – new this year – eagles to scare away hazardous bird species from the airfield. Bird species that pose a significant risk to aviation safety include flocking shorebirds like dunlin and geese.

To ensure that we use trained raptors as effectively as possible, we have teamed up with Pacific Northwest Raptors, whose professional falconers “fly” the trained raptors. The newest member of our raptor family is Hercules, a captive-raised juvenile bald eagle, whose job is to chase ducks and snow geese away from the active airfield.

When not being flown on the airfield, Hercules and his colleagues make their home in a specially-designed cage or mews. Local Burkeville neighbours may hear some noise coming from the mews:  this is the raptors begging for food from their handlers. Hercules in particular is quite vocal, but this behavior is normal.

Another group of raptors on Sea Island are not as welcome as Hercules and his trained falcon friends. Wild raptors such as red-tailed hawks, barn owls, coopers hawks and peregrine falcons are difficult to control and typically resist attempts to scare or harass them away from the airfield. To ensure these birds do not come into contact with aircraft, we use an Environment Canada-approved trap and relocation program. Once trapped, a certified master bander affixes a band or tag to the bird for identification. Tagged birds are relocated and released in Chilliwack within 36 hours of capture. In 2013, the wildlife team managed to trap, band and relocate 96 raptors. This is a very important component of our wildlife management and airfield safety program.

For more on YVR’s wildlife management program, check out my post on the YVR blog.  You can also watch a video to learn how our wildlife team uses specially trained border collies to keep YVR’s airfield safe:

Puppies from YVR Media Relations on Vimeo.

Earth Week 2014: SFO Takes the LEED in Environmentally Friendly Design

by Emily Sing
Engineer, Environmental Services and Sustainability
San Francisco International Airport

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been at SFO for 2 years now. I look back to the first day I started and remember asking myself, “How am I going to get myself up to speed on all the environmental programs going on here?” My solution was to just jump in, and that’s exactly what I did. From day one (okay, maybe day two), I realized that the work at SFO goes beyond regulatory compliance. We really strive to make a difference, and although this might sound corny, I really believe every day at SFO is Earth Day.

Our mission is “to provide an exceptional Airport in service to our communities.” And that includes all our local neighboring communities, which is why we strive to minimize our environmental impact everywhere we can. That is definitely not an easy task, even for a progressive airport like SFO.  I am fortunate to have airport leadership vested in sustainability and a team that is not afraid to push the envelope. We celebrate successes when the whole organization pitches in.

Right before I joined the airport, SFO opened T2 which became the first LEED Gold certified terminal in the US, and since then, every future construction project has been designed to achieve LEED Gold.  But the innovation didn’t stop there.  Later this year, we will open a new airfield operations facility (AOF) which is also designed to achieve LEED Gold and will be the airport’s first-ever net-zero energy facility, generating as much energy as it uses. The AOF is designed to be 50 percent more energy efficient than the ASHRAE standard, taking advantage of energy efficiencies that go beyond conventional design approaches.

Some of the key features of the AOF building include a high-performance building envelope, a solar tube lighting system and glazed perimeter walls which bring natural light deep into work spaces.  The dynamic perimeter glazing adjusts automatically as solar conditions change. Combined with high-efficiency, low-maintenance LED lighting and adjustable lighting controls, the design drastically reduces electricity use.  Other features include individual control of ventilation systems, low-flow plumbing fixtures and native California plantings that require no irrigation. To achieve net-zero, 72 kW of solar panels will be installed on the roof of the building.

SFO has established itself as an international industry leader in sustainability.  We take our role as an environmental steward seriously, challenging the SFO team to implement proactive and innovative projects like T2 and the AOF. I invite you to come visit our facilities when you fly into SFO and see for yourself.

Earth Week 2014: Toronto Pearson Gearing Up for Creek Cleanup

by Derek Gray
Manager, Environmental Services
Greater Toronto Airports Authority

Regardless of the weather this Friday, approximately 30 GTAA staff will be taking part in our annual creek cleanup.

Now in its twelfth ‎year the cleanup occurs along a section of Spring Creek that is within the primary security line and not accessible by the general public.

Spring Creek upstream of Toronto Pearson International Airport is a highly urbanized watershed with a mix of commercial, industrial and residential land uses.

This mixed land use always leads to the possibility of “interesting” finds and a contest for participants. Each year prizes are awarded for those “interesting” finds. Over the years some prize-worthy finds have included a satellite dish, a full-sized baby carriage and a roll of perforated drainage pipe.

The more common garbage removed from the creek are plastic bags, single serving beverage containers and Styrofoam packing.  I’m looking forward to this year’s “interesting” find and the cleanup effort.

Earth Week 2014: O’Hare Apiary Is Back with Lots of Buzz

by David H. Robbins
Project Administrator, Environment and Sustainability
Chicago Department of Aviation

Three years ago, the CDA became the first major airport in the U.S. to host an apiary on its grounds. Beginning with 28 beehives and more than one million bees in May 2011, the apiary has since grown to 50 beehives and is the largest apiary at any airport in the world.

The “buzz-worthy” initiative was made possible through a job training partnership with the Chicago Department of Family Support Services and the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN). The apiary provides job training to ex-offenders in the form of beekeeping and the processing of honey and honey-based products including candles, soaps and lotions.  These products are sold under the beelove™ product label in stores at O’Hare and Midway Airports.

In the first year of operation, the apiary produced 1,200 pounds of honey –or more than 40 pounds of honey per hive. Last year, the apiary produced another 1,200 pounds of honey.  Despite one of the coldest and snowiest Chicago winters on record, almost half the hives survived the season, and are back for more honey production this year.

The on-airport apiary helps replenish bee populations, which have plummeted over the past decade because of parasites and dramatic temperature fluctuations.  Since approximately 1/3 of all the food we eat is pollinated by bees, the CDA is helping to stabilize the local population of honeybees so they can continue to perform their valuable ecological role.

The CDA’s apiary has received numerous accolades and positive press thanks to its ability to truly embody the concept of people, planet and profit. It received the Environmental Achievement Award from ACI-NA in the Outreach, Education and Community Involvement Award Category.  The CDA also received the Urban Land Institute’s Chicago Vision Award; and CDA Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino received a “Creating a Community That Works” award for work with ex-offenders.