FAA aims to bolster wildlife regulation for airports

Washington DC
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All commercial airports with scheduled passenger service in the US will have to create wildlife hazard management schemes if FAA revises regulation as planned following the forced Hudson River landing in January of US Airways flight 1549 due to a strike involving Canada geese.

Current regulation-14CFR139.337-only requires Part 139 certificated airports to create wildlife hazard management plans after an aircraft experiences multiple strikes from a flock of birds or if an aircraft experiences damage or structural failure from a strike. Engine ingestion of wildlife would also require the creation of a wildlife hazard management plan, as would the observation of wildlife on airport grounds that are capable of causing a strike.

But regulators intend to make the plans mandatory even if a trigger event has not occurred at the facility, FAA staff wildlife biologist John Weller said during a recent presentation in Washington, DC

"After 1549 we are living in a different world," he says.

About 298 of the roughly 563 Part 139 certificated airports in the US had FAA-approved wildlife hazard management schemes or were in the process of having a plan written or submitted to the agency as of this June, the latest data available, an FAA spokeswoman says. She adds that airports typically conduct wildlife hazard mitigation, such as reducing wildlife attractants, even if they do not have a wildlife hazard management plan.

Weller is leading the effort to update all airport guidance regarding wildlife-such as hiring criteria for wildlife biologists employed by airports-as he took on his current post shortly after the US Airways Airbus A320 strike, making him the third staff wildlife biologist at the agency since the FAA created the position in the 1980s.

However, changing regulation will be at least a three-year process, he says.

Nonetheless, revised regulation is needed as airports play a critical role in strike prevention, Weller says. He notes that most strikes-92%-occur below 3,000ft during takeoffs and landings.

Weller would also like to streamline the strike reporting process, which currently can be done electronically or on paper

"We get pretty good information from airports but you want information from the ground crew, maintenance crew and the manufacturers," he says.

Weller says FAA is investigating how airline maintenance reports about wildlife strikes could be automatically sent to the FAA National Wildlife Strike Database.