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"Florida airport hires $76K a year bird-watcher"
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Florida airport hires $76K a year bird-watcher
KDFW-TV Ch 4 (Fox), Dallas/Fort Worth (TX)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A Florida airport is going to the birds -- so much
so that authorities are hiring a full-time bird-watcher at $76,000 a year to
stop feathered pests from fowl-ing up flights.
Federal Aviation Administration officials are mandating the employment of
the bird-busting expert at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
after it suffered two major bird-airplane collisions.
The program will cost Broward County $118,000, including a salary of $76,252
for the new hire, a wildlife biologist who specializes in animal aviation
Up until now, airport staff took turns firing deafening flare guns and
propane cannons into the air to ward off vultures, grackles, American
kestrels, cattle egrets, doves, pigeons and occasionally a pelican or
"We're not just hiring somebody you can find at a park," said Mike
Nonnemacher, the airport operations director for Broward County.
"The $118,000 is pennies compared to losing a $2 million engine," he said.
"We're being proactive."
The airport already spends $10,000 a year on anti-bird measures. But despite
its avian-averting efforts, the airport reported 64 "bird strikes" last year
and 17 so far this year.
The two major incidents included one in 2010, when a vulture collided with
the engine of US Airways jet. After the engine lost power, the plane circled
and returned to the airport with bird feathers in its engine's blades.
Every airport in the country must have wildlife mitigation plans approved by
the FAA. The extent of the measures depends on the airport's location.
The most dangerous bird strikes hit airplane engines -- which suck up fowl
like a giant vacuum cleaner -- or smash into the nose of a plane and damage
its radar equipment.
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