Sea-Tac Director Mark Reis Testifies In DC
Sea-Tac Airport’s Managing Director Mark Reis testified in Washington, DC Tuesday (Feb. 24th) on behalf of Sea-Tac and Airports Council International–North America (ACI-NA) before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Aviation on ‘Wildlife Strikes—How Airports are Helping to Manage the Risks.”
“Airports have been working over almost five decades to reduce these [wildlife hazard] risks [to aviation safety] within the confines of multiple federal, state, and local laws and regulations,” Reis told the Subcommittee. “Since 1977, Sea-Tac has made progress in reducing the attractiveness of the airport for wildlife habitation, while restoring much of the areas naturally occurring hydrologic and ecological functions.”
Reis noted that airports are required to have a qualified wildlife biologist conduct a wildlife hazard assessment in the event that an air carrier aircraft ingests wildlife into its engines, is substantially damaged by a wildlife strike, or experiences multiple wildlife strikes, or wildlife are observed in a manner that could cause an aircraft to experience one of those situations. The FAA reviews the assessment and determines whether the airport must develop a wildlife hazard management plan, which becomes a part of the operator’s Airport Certification Manual. These plans contain specific actions that an airport will undertake to attempt to minimize or eliminate wildlife hazards and must include a training program conducted by qualified experts to provide airport staff with the knowledge and skills needed to implement the management plan.
Avian radar systems will soon be evaluated at Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, and John F. Kennedy International Airports. According to Reis, as it currently operates today, avian radar is not yet the “silver bullet” as it detects too much bird activity, meaning airports need to determine what information is best to pass on immediately to the air traffic controllers.
Reis told the Subcommittee, “Airports would benefit from having stronger, federally-mandated mechanisms to control land uses in the vicinity of their airports. Laws limit the ability of airports to modify or eliminate attractive habitats on or near airports, even if similar habitat could be provided elsewhere. These issues have had a stifling effect on airport efforts to control hazardous wildlife around the country.”
Reis noted that going forward, the continued development of promising technologies, improved coordination between airports and local developers, closer coordination for wetland and stormwater mitigation for airports, and harmonization of federal, state, and local wildlife management restrictions may reduce these risks further.
However, he stressed that airports need funding to implement and maintain effective wildlife management programs.
“The FAA can provide critically important funding for setting up these programs. However, the ongoing operating costs associated with these programs must be funded by operating budgets, which are already under considerable strain due to the current economic crisis.”
Here’s a video showing Sea-Tac’s Wildlife Biologist Steve Osmek in action trying to scare birds away: