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Bird strikes up at Sacramento Int'l, other U.S. airports | News

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Bird strikes up at Sacramento Int'l, other U.S. airports
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SACRAMENTO, CA - The number of bird strikes at U.S. airports continues to increase, even as the total number of flights has trended down.

In January 2009, a flock of geese caused the crash of a U.S. Airways jet into New York's Hudson River. Pilot "Sully" Sullenberger managed to safely ditch the plane. Some passengers were injured, but no one was killed.

Since then, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, the number of bird strikes on planes has gone up significantly.

At Sacramento International Airport, for example, spokeswoman Gina Swankie said the number of bird strikes in 2009 was 186 compared with 112 two years before. In 2010, there were 196 bird strikes at the airport.

Swankie said most damaging bird strikes happen well above the airport operations area and out of the reach of wildlife hazard management tools.

The airport has taken many measures to try to reduce the number of birds, with the primary being habitat modification, says Swankie. The various methods include keeping ditches mowed and putting grates on culverts to discourage wildlife. Harassment tools include using taped distress calls, propane cannons and pyrotechnics.

According to Swankie, birds are removed - killed - as a last resort.

Passengers said they sometimes see the birds as they take off and land at the Sacramento International.

"Planes can hit birds and damage the engines and cause real severe damage to your plane. But I also know this is a major migratory area for birds and so I'm really concerned about being able to conserve them," said passenger Marilyn Draheim.

Passenger Joe Dillingham, who flies frequently, said the issue of bird strikes doesn't bother him.

"Pilots are pretty good," Dillingham said. "My brother's a pilot and he tells me it's not that big of a deal when they hit birds, so I don't really think about it a lot."

Experts remain puzzled over why the numbers of bird strikes has continued to climb even as the number of flights has gone down.

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