Birds at Changi shot down only as a last resort

Straits Times Forum 4 Nov 09;

I REFER to the letters last Friday by the Nature Society ('Don't gun them down') and Miss Michelle Elizabeth Yin ('Heavy-handed') regarding Changi Airport Group's (CAG) efforts to manage the bird population in the airport vicinity.

The CAG administers a comprehensive bird control programme at Changi Airport. Our priority is to minimise the potential hazard that birds could pose to aircraft. We seek to discourage the presence of birds in the airfield as far as possible, rather than to remove them by shooting.

This programme, formulated through benchmarking with other airports, includes habitat modification and deterrence efforts to make the airfield unattractive to birds.

Environmental control measures include appropriate landscaping, such as keeping grass at appropriate lengths to prevent birds from hiding in it and not planting fruit trees. We also employ techniques to scare birds away such as using a system to emit distress calls of birds.

While these preventive measures do help, they do not keep birds away totally. One factor is the thick foliage in neighbouring properties around the airport that encourages birds to roost and nest. And as Changi Airport is by the sea, some birds do fly across flight paths to reach the sea in search for food.

Hence, the removal of birds is sometimes necessary. This is carried out as a last resort and we continue to take other measures, including working with surrounding property owners to reduce the attraction of their premises to birds.

The safety of passengers is the most important priority for CAG. Bird strikes, while fortunately rare, have occurred at Changi. Where large birds were involved, these resulted in damage to aircraft or their engines. The potential hazard to aircraft operations from bird strikes was exemplified by an incident on Jan 15 when a commercial aircraft experienced engine failure and ditched into New York's Hudson River after striking a flock of birds following take-off from LaGuardia Airport.

The CAG regularly seeks the advice of experts to ensure that its bird control programme remains consistent with international best practice.

We would be pleased to meet council members of the Nature Society to explain our programme and work with them to further reduce the need to remove birds, while continuing to ensure safe aircraft operations.

Yeo Kia Thye
Director (Airport Operations)
Changi Airport Group

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Kimberly Spykerman, Straits Times 26 Oct 09;