Fort Worth airports use sirens and pyrotechnics to scare birds away from aircraft

Fort Worth airports use loud sirens and pyrotechnics to protect planes from bird strikes on departure and descent.

Airports can be particularly attractive to birds because of their wide open spaces, vegetation, accessibility to food and lack of predators, according to the blog Warding them off the path of incoming and outgoing aircraft can be tricky. It is certainly a task three airports that call Fort Worth home — Meacham International Airport, Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport and Spinks Airport — take very seriously.

On Tuesday, the Star-Telegram obtained a video and military documents on the cause of a Navy trainer jet crashing into a Lake Worth neighborhood in September 2021. Both Navy pilots survived the crash and no civilians were killed or seriously injured in the crash, however, the incident did rack up $47 million in property and medical damage.

A 4.5-pound black vulture was cited as the cause of the crash — ingested into the jet’s single engine as the aircraft started its approach to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. Birds striking aircraft are not uncommon and between 1990 to 2019 there have been around 227,005 birdstrike incidents.

Here’s how the city deals with winged creatures near aircraft:

How do airports protect planes from wildlife?

Each of the three airports developed wildlife hazard management plans that are specific to each location, said Aaron Barth, assistant aviation director with the city.

The plans provide ways of reducing risks that wildlife poses to safe airport operations, Barth said. Each airport conducts wildlife training and monitoring, vegetation management, data collection, reporting and mitigation activities.

Airport personnel most often employ loud sirens and pyrotechnic equipment to steer birds clear of the area, Barth said.

The wildlife hazard management plans are reviewed each year as wildlife activity evolve on the airfields. All three airports maintain permits with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Barth noted.

How often are bird strikes an issue?

Most bird strikes, about 53%, happen between July to October. According to the FAA, this is when young birds have recently fledged from nests and when fall migration occurs.

This is usually when the sirens and pyrotechnics are put to use.