By Recto Mercene
November 4, 2012
IF anything, the wild birds at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) cannot be accused of being bird-brained.
Their obstinacy to remain within the runway environment to adopt and adjust, despite various efforts to drive them away, seems to imbue them with intelligence.
Science calls it instinct.
For years, airport authorities have tried practically everything to chase them off the airport compound, pressured by the rising incidents of bird-plane collision, or bird strike in aviation lingo.
Authorities have employed firecrackers, shotgun blasts, painted pictures of birds of prey hoisted on banners, piercing noise and, for a while, peregrine falcons.
This year alone, more than 50 bird strikes occurred at the Naia, according to General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.
During a recent media conference, Honrado said the birds, mostly egrets and other migratory birds, eventually get acclimatize to the noise and no longer fear them.
Last Friday Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) Director General William K. Hotchkiss, his deputy, Capt. John C. Andrews and Honrado led members of the media for a demonstration of their latest brainchild to finally put an end to the birds’ domination of the field.
They brought a motorcycle with the muffler removed, emitting a noise from its motor Captain Andrews believes would drive the birds crazy and eventually hie off permanently to where they come from, probably China.
“We will buy four motorcycles, assign eight drivers in shift to work 12 hours a day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting December 1.” He said the drivers would undergo training so that they will understand the dos and don’t’s of airport operations.
The experiment will last for four months.
Armed with a radio for direct contact with the control tower to avoid aircraft taking off and landing, the drivers are to proceed to where the flocks are gathered and rev up their motors to scare them.
Asked how much money is set aside to fund the project, Captain Andrews refuses to reveal.
For demonstration, one motorcycle was dispatched to the gathered flocks at the catchment basin, a place filled with runoff water and thriving with swamp cabbage (kangkong) near runway 13-31.
The motorcycle’s motor, devoid of a silencer, was revved-up, emitting a deep machine-gun like din, only a few decibels below those from taking off jets nearby.
The birds, about a dozen, flew away to the other side of the runway and after a few minutes of hovering, came back to the same spot to resume their interrupted feeding.
Four times, the same technique was employed and the birds, getting used to the noise, simply flew away to the other side of the runway, hover and probably thumb their noses (or bills) at the offenders before reclaiming their territory. They continue to feed nonchalantly.
If they had learned to adapt to the jetliner’s noise, how much more a puny motorcycle’s noise, asked one media kibitzer.
Friday’s demonstration seems to indicate that being bird-brained does not belong to the fowls but probably to somebody else.
Records at the Naia show that on October 22, a Philippine Airlines Airbus A320 with 152 passengers onboard collided with a bird while landing at the Naia. Two days later, another Pal aircraft had a birdstrike after take-off from the same airport.
Luckily, no one was hurt in both incidents.