Innovative Bird Capture Technique Enhances Pilot Safety at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph

  • Published
  • By Sean Worrell
  • 12th Flying Training Wing

In an initiative aimed at enhancing pilot safety, the 12th Flying Training Wing has implemented a method to mitigate bird strikes. Utilizing a massive 25x25 foot net, personnel at 12th FTW Safety office in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are capturing birds that pose a threat to aircraft operations, thereby reducing the risk of potentially dangerous encounters in the sky.

Bird strikes have long been a concern for military and civilian aviation worldwide, with these incidents capable of causing severe damage to aircraft and even loss of life. Recognizing the significance of this issue, the 12th FTW has taken proactive steps to address the challenge head-on, combining technological innovation with environmental stewardship.

The innovative bird capture technique being implemented involves the strategic placement of a net in locations that are known to be frequented by avian species deemed significant threats to aircraft safety. This method, tailored to mitigate the risks associated with bird strikes, employs a system that deploys the net over these critical areas, ensnaring birds that pose potential dangers to flights. The initiative underscores the ongoing efforts to enhance aviation safety by addressing the hazards that wildlife can present to aircraft operations.

In discussing the strategy behind the bird capture system, Lt. Col. Timothy Lukianowicz, the 12th Flying Training Wing's Chief of Safety, emphasized the importance of targeting White-Winged Doves. "The goal of using the drop-net system is to capture and remove as many White-Winged Doves from the area as possible," Lukianowicz stated. "One mating pair can produce between 2-6 offspring by the end of the breeding season. The breeding season lasts from March to August, so removing as many adult white-winged doves now will aid in reducing the population numbers and strike risk to our aircraft later in the summer."

To further ensure the effectiveness of the bird capture system, specific methods are being employed to attract White-Winged Doves and other birds of concern. "Once the system is set up, we will be spreading bird seed beneath the net to attract White-Winged Doves and other birds of concern. We estimate it will take a week of pre-baiting the trap for birds to acclimate to the net and begin to regularly visit the bait site," added Lukianowicz. This preparatory phase is critical to the success, allowing birds to become accustomed to the presence of the net and ensuring a higher capture rate.

This initiative is part of a broader effort by the U.S. Air Force to mitigate wildlife hazards across its installations. By integrating advanced technology, ecological research, and operational safety measures, the Air Force aims to create a safer environment for both aviators and wildlife.

The success of the program at JBSA-Randolph serves as a model for other military installations and civilian airports facing similar challenges. Through collaboration and a commitment to safety and sustainability, the 12th FTW is leading the way in reducing bird strike incidents and setting a new standard in aviation safety.