JFK leads country in bird strikes: FAA report

By Philip Newman

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who successfully fought for release of information on bird strikes against the nation’s jetliners, has called for a federal program to reduce “a very serious problem endangering anyone who takes to the skies.”

Schumer said John F. Kennedy International Airport was No. 1 in the nation for bird strikes that caused serious damage to airliners.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ordered the release of Federal Aviation Administration bird strikes information last week at the behest of Schumer.

The FAA reported that airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 U.S. airports since 2000.

“In New York, there were 1,811 bird strikes at JFK since 1990,” said Schumer, pointing out that Newark had 948 bird hits and LaGuardia 954.

He said the cost of repairs to the planes in these cases was estimated at more than $267 million.

The senator said the federal government should “create a new program that would devote millions of dollars to wildlife mitigation, focusing on reducing bird strikes at New York City airports and airports across the country.”

Schumer mentioned that JFK “is near wetlands, that area breeding ground for birds such as geese.”

The senator was referring to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, home to as many as 330 bird species.

Schumer has not said whether he sees a proposed waste treatment plant in College Point near LaGuardia as an obstacle to mitigation of the bird problem.  U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) and other elected officials have expressed concern that trucks and barges carrying sealed containers of  garbage would still attract birds.

“We all remember that day on Jan. 15 when a US Airways flight flown by the heroic Chesley Sullenberger splash-landed in the Hudson River,” Schumer said.

“That death-defying landing was directly caused by birds coming into contact with the plane’s engines. Bird strikes at New York airports and airports across the country have risen unabated by an FAA that repeatedly swept safety issues like this under the rug and are now unacceptably high,” he said.

The FAA report listed the most bird strikes as having occurred at Denver International Airport with 2,090, although the most with damage occurred to planes at JFK.

The report tracked the period between January 1990 and November 2008.

The agency reported that 97 percent of the collisions were with  birds, but there were also dogs, rabbits, foxes, prairie dogs, bats, moose, bats and turtles.

The great majority of birds involved were mourning doves, although there were also Canada geese and many other bird species, the report said.

.“This potential safety crisis is proof positive of the hear no evil, see no evil approach the FAA took to aviation safety for the last eight years,” said Schumer, a frequent critic of the FAA.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

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