Bird strikes up 60% at Atlanta's airport

6:43 PM, Jul 29, 2013   |    comments
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Control tower at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

ATLANTA -- Last Friday, a Delta flight out of Hartsfield-Jackson brought traffic to a stop when a bird hit the plane and the pilot was forced to return to the airport.

That incident sheds light on what airport officials say is a growing problem at the world's busiest airport.

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Since 2005, bird strikes have reportedly gone up more than 60-percent.

With more than 2,500 flights departing and arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, every day, it's a full time, 24-hour-a-day job to keep the planes and birds on separate flight paths.

And the operations team is fighting that battle, every day.

Airport operations has assembled a variety of devices to scare birds away from the runways and off the airport property.

"Small pyrotechnics to make loud noises and bright lights that the birds do not seem to like. They mimic gun shots that will disperse them to another area outside the airport. To that we add propane powered bird cannons that are triggered throughout the day to fire and create loud noises," said Matt Coffelt, who heads wildlife coordination at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Coffelt says the number of incidents is up from 45 in 2005 to more than 60 now, primarily because more of the incidents are being reported by the airlines with many being considered minor.

So far this year at Hartsfield-Jackson, 30 incidents have been reported.

But the bigger issues are bird strikes in the air.

The most famous being in 2009 when a US Airways jet landed, with all engines idles by bird strikes, on the Hudson River with no fatalities.

On the ground, says Coffelt, the idea to just to keep the birds away.

"You move them around and kind of like a shell game. Keep them guessing and so they don't get used to it," he said.

And that's what the airport is doing 24 hours a day.

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