MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – At the 167th Airlift Wing, airfield management ensures a safe, efficient and effective airfield and responds to safety hazards affecting the airfield environment.
Safety threats like the weather, foreign object damage and even local wildlife pose a serious risk to aircraft operations. Airfield management utilizes various safety programs to mitigate these threats.
“What we do not only impacts military operations, but also civilian aviation,” said Senior Master Sgt. Alan Romero, 167th AW airfield manager.
The Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards (BASH) program is one way airfield management ensures a safe airfield. The program aims to minimize catastrophic aircraft incidents caused by wildlife. Airfield management and the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services implement the program.
“It takes a cooperation between safety, USDA Wildlife Services, civil engineering and the tower,” said Romero.
Civil engineering’s role in keeping the grass to the recommended height of 7 to 12 inches is a critical component to the BASH program.
Senior Master Sgt. Josh Michael, 167th Civil Engineering facility manager, explained that keeping the grass too short makes small wildlife like mice more visible to their predators, while grass that is too long allows for nesting behavior.
Airfield management actively scans the taxiway and runway for indications of wildlife, using noise-making devices to encourage animals to move away from the airfield.
Master Sgt. Jose Marrero, noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management, said it is important to switch between various devices because wildlife becomes immune to consistent noises.
Civilian and military air traffic assist as well, reporting wildlife activity or wildlife aircraft strikes to the BASH team.
This information is important, especially if there are remains from a strike, because a carcass may draw black vultures or coyotes to the airfield.
By investigating and reporting evidence of wildlife, historical data comes together to confirm animal patterns, which help predict their behavior.
That knowledge enables BASH team members from USDA APHIS Wildlife Services-West Virginia and Master Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, flight safety manager, to make smart decisions when planning actions to deter wildlife.
Smith said the program’s effectiveness is supported by comparing the data collected by USDA APHIS Wildlife Services-West Virginia since 2015 to recent statistics, which show a reduction in wildlife on the airfield.
Smith praised the efforts of the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services-West Virginia and airfield management.
“Wildlife management can seem unpredictable, but through every member and component of BASH, we are successful at keeping the airfield safe, which increases mission safety,” Smith said.