Not your usual scare tactics: BASH program works to keep birds clear of aircraft

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Yash Rojas
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Members of the Bird Air Strike Hazard program at Eielson Air Force Base are equipped with shotguns, propane cannons and pyrotechnics with the purpose of instilling fear.

But they aren't scaring people; they're scaring wildlife who sometimes find their way into controlled areas where they pose a danger to themselves and Air Force assets.

Today's Bird-Air Strike Hazard program continues to reduce the number of aviation mishaps by taking preventative measures to keep local and transient aircraft from colliding with the wildlife that shares the Alaskan skies.

The program's energies and each member's overall ability to successfully irritate local bird and other wildlife have directly contributed to minimizing costly wildlife mishaps.

The collaborative effort between various agencies on base, led by the 354th Fighter Wing Flight Safety office and supported by members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, have helped keep Eielson Air Force Base mission-ready.

"We work 24/7 trying to minimize wildlife-aircraft strikes here at Eielson Air Force Base," said Patrick Gray, USDA Wildlife Services airport biologist. "Our primary means of doing [this] is habitat modification, exclusion, repulsion and removal methods."

The primary form of defense against encroaching wildlife is habitat modification, which focuses on making wildlife seek other places to inhabit by reducing food, water and cover, said Gray. By minimizing these attractants, you decrease the amount of birds seeking to make Eielson their home.

"We help with the BASH program, but a lot of base entities assist, like natural resources and security forces for a lot of the habitat modifications, and even airfield operations," said Gray. "We work together to try to minimize attractants, like filling in water bodies, altering [the surrounding habitat], and removing brush, shrubs and woodlands.

"The program has been successful in mitigating the bird threat mainly because of the experience the guys from the USDA bring to the team," said Maj. John Wolinski, 354th FW Flight Safety chief and BASH officer. "So far this year, we've had no reported bird strikes. It's a tremendous program."

While there have been no reported incidents, Wolinski said dead birds can be found on the runway at times, which can be attributed to birds getting caught in wake turbulence. It happens when the birds attempt to fly near or around the path of the aircraft.

Since Eielson lies in one of the largest migratory bird corridors, playing host to a numerous amount of different bird species including waterfowl, it is especially important that activity is carefully managed to keep both wildlife and Air Force assets unharmed, he said.

"During RED FLAG-Alaska as many 75 sorties are taking place in a day," Wolinski said. "That's a lot of airplanes flying in and out of Eielson. So, without [BASH], who knows [where we would be]."

Although members of the BASH program have their work cut out for them, hard work and constant vigilance has ensured the program stays while the birds fly to more inviting habitats far from Eielson's aircraft.