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BASH program benefits from local-area support

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- This time of year is full of significant events - Halloween, changing foliage, Thanksgiving and, of course, annual bird migration. While people may stop to watch a flock of Canadian Geese fly overhead in their notorious v-formation, few realize the threat these and other migratory birds are to the flying operations at Buckley.

In autumn, Buckley's Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazards program is in full swing.

"This is the time of year when we typically have greater numbers of birds flying through our traffic pattern," said Lt. Col. Mitchell Neff, 140th Wing chief of safety. "While it is fun to see big flocks heading south for the winter, it is a huge threat to our flying mission."

When birds are ingested into the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon or other aircraft, the results can vary from minimal damages to totaling the multi-million dollar aircraft and hurting or even killing the pilot onboard, said Neff. "Even the most minor bird strikes require the engine to be removed and fully inspected for damages, which takes thousands of dollars' worth of time and manpower."

In order to reduce the probability of a bird strike, the BASH program incorporates several measures to minimize bird habitation on and near the base, including eliminating standing water, removing bird-friendly vegetation and periodically sounding canons that scare away birds. 

"The flight schedulers do what they can to help by not scheduling any take-offs or landings within at least an hour before sunset," Neff added.

While these efforts have significantly decreased the number of bird strikes over the past several years, Neff mentioned a few ways the local community can also help to discourage these birds from making Buckley a stop on their migratory journey. These measures mainly pertain to the community within five miles of the base.

1. Don't feed birds or other wildlife in picnic areas, restaurant parking areas or anywhere near the base.
2. Don't plant crops that attract birds, such as corn, sunflowers or berries.
3. Ensure all garbage containers and dumpsters remain closed.
4. Minimize standing water in ponds, landscaping, water retention areas, etc.
5. Anytime large or potentially hazardous birds or other wildlife concentrations are observed, call airfield management at (720) 847-9650 or the safety office at (720) 847-9488 or (720) 847-9472.

Even these small measures can contribute to fewer bird strike incidents, explained Neff. "The more the community helps us to deter birds from the base and surrounding areas, the safer it will be for our pilots and, for that matter, the birds as well."
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