Wildlife and runways


Our biggest wildlife hazard near airports is birds. We have hundreds of bird strikes and near misses every year in Canada (1,324 bird strikes in 2007 and 1,230 in 2008). We also have strikes, near misses and arrival and departure delays due to other wildlife.

A Piper PA 31 VFR departing from Tofino for Vancouver, reported delaying their take-off due to a black bear crossing Runway 29.

A 172M aircraft was departing on a local VFR flight from St. Catharines (Niagara District) Airport, when the pilot reported that a coyote ran underneath the aircraft just after take-off from runway 24. Three other coyotes were also observed in grass adjacent to the runway.

A Beech 55 aircraft was on an IFR flight to Fort Frances where the aircraft struck a deer on landing. The left flap and prop were damaged.

A B737 departing Charlottetown delayed departure for five minutes due to a dog on the airfield.

Whitecourt FSS reported that an elk ran across the runway while a Cessna 182 was on short final. The pilot made a minor change in his flight path to land farther down the runway. The airport manager was advised and chased the animal off the property.

An, Airbus A319, inbound to Deer Lake advised on landing that they might have struck a small animal on their rollout on Runway 25. The remains of a fox were found on the runway. The Captain of the Airbus was advised and a check of the aircraft was completed. No damage was discovered.

intersection. It is believed that the rodent met its demise when struck by an aircraft. After departure, a pilot reported striking a Sik-Sik (Arctic ground hog) during the take-off roll. Airport staff conducted a runway check and removed the remains of the Sik-Sik.

A Beech 200 was on approach to Runway 13 at Gander, Newfoundland. When the aircraft was approximately 10 miles from touch-down, a moose was spotted running from Apron Three northbound towards Runway 13. The pilot was still in contact with the Area Control Centre on Frequency 132.1. The tower advised the Centre of the situation, and that all runways would be closed until the situation was under control. The Beech 200 entered a holding pattern while several staff vehicles corralled the moose and herded it out of the gate at the threshold of Runway 31. Whitehorse Tower dispatched an airport vehicle to remove a dead porcupine from Runway 01. It is unknown which aircraft hit it.

The flight crew of a Boeing 727-100 series aircraft landing at Hamilton reported that a possible rabbit strike had occurred during the roll out phase of their landing on runway 12. The runway was closed for an inspection and the remains of a rabbit were found.

A Boeing 737 reported hitting two raccoons during the landing on Runway 06 at Halifax. By my count from the CADORS, in 2009 we had problems on the runway with bears two times, coyotes 40, deer 25, dogs four, elk three, fox 13, moose four, rabbits seven, porcupine one, raccoons four, squirrels one, and gophers, ground hogs or ground squirrels five.

As you can see these were not just at remote airports. Many occurred at busy international airports.

In 2008, the most common runway encounters with wild life were with raccoons. It appears that in 2009, coyotes and deer top the list of reported wildlife incidents.

These were just the incidents that were reported. Many wildlife occurrences at remote or smaller uncontrolled southern airports are not reported. I have had to chase deer off the runway at Masset, B.C. three times and once at Edson, Alberta; and Buffalo off a grass strip near Fort Liard, NWT. I came within inches of hitting a deer with a PA 34 Seneca on landing at Pemberton, B.C.

As wildlife, to adapt to us encroaching on their habitats we will have more incidents with them. Eleven mammal strikes were reported in 2008. My count for 2009 shows at least twice that number.

Large airports have active wildlife programs in effect and they still get a number of incidents or strikes every year. Small airports do not have such programs in place. It is up to us to keep our eyes open and take nothing for granted. Hitting a bear, a moose or an elk would result in a very bad day.

Dale Nielsen is an ex-Armed Forces pilot and aerial photography pilot. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., and currently flies medevacs from Victoria in a Lear 25. Nielsen is also the author of seven flight training manuals published by Canuck West Holdings.

Got an aviation safety story to tell? Dale Nielsen would like to hear from pilots who have educational aviation experiences to relate. Excerpts from these stories will be used in upcoming safety articles. Dale can be contacted via e-mail: dale@flighttrainingmanuals.com.