Wakkanai Airport struggles with bird control due to increase in runway encroachment
Runway encroachment issues are causing bird control headaches at Wakkanai Airport in Northern Hokkaido. Encroachment has greatly increased since 2019, and at the peak from summer to autumn, several hundred birds can often be seen resting their wings on the runway in scenes reminiscent of a “bird paradise”. In the latest bird-strike count of 2019, which records the frequency of cases in which birds collide with planes, the rate had risen to approximately 10 times that of New Chitose Airport. The East Japan Civil Aviation Bureau Wakkanai Airport Office is due to publish its 2020 bird control report shortly.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, between 2010 and 2018 there were no more than 1 bird strike per year involving scheduled ANA flights (flights to and from Haneda and New Chitose) and aircraft transporting patients that took off and landed at Wakkanai Airport. However, in 2019, the number suddenly rose to 10 cases and a further two cases in 2020 despite long intermittent suspensions of Haneda flights due to the spread of infections from the Coronavirus.
The majority of birds that collided with the planes were black-tailed gulls, but others included slaty-backed gulls and oriental greenfinch.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in the latest count of 2019, of the 79,367 flights that took off from and landed at New Chitose airport, there were 52 cases of bird strikes. At Wakkanai Airport, there were 10 cases among 1,470 flights. The frequency of the occurrence of bird strikes at Wakkanai Airport is approximately 10 times that of New Chitose Airport.
The birds are said to fly onto the runway in their hundreds. Airport staff drive them away with vehicles and simulated gunshots, only for them to return sometime later.
With regard to the cause of the large number of birds, Wakkanai Airport Office first believed the runway to be a ‘safe zone’ in which there were no predators. However, in 2020, foxes were often seen climbing the fence and entering the area, and currently they are at a loss as to why such large numbers gather there.
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