Border Collie Helps Herd Birds Off Florida Airport

USATODAY_AnimalkindPublished: June 14, 2018
Published: June 14, 2018

Both birds and airplanes belong in the sky, but the fact is that they shouldn’t mix. Whenever they do, the feathery critters could smash the plane’s windshield or get sucked into the engine. Still, birds aren’t the only members of wildlife that can pose risks to airplanes. Deer, hogs and other wildlife do too, most of which happen at or near airports.

Southwest Florida International Airport is proud to say that they have not had any wildlife strikes that have hurt their human passengers and they strive to keep up the good rep. That is why they have in their employ a method that has proves to be, without a doubt, error free.

What method might that be, you ask? Why, it is but a border Collie that goes by the name Echo. She accompanies Operations Officer Samantha Hunter on airfield patrols three to four days of the week. The three-year-old pooch spots, stalks and chases birds away from the runway and taxiways. Sometimes there are just a few birds that have decided to catch some sunshine on the airfield. Others there’s much more.

Samantha says that Echo is stubborn in the best way. The hard-working pup is looking for birds even during casual car rides. She rarely barks, while Samantha uses her voice and a whistle to direct, correct and praise her quiet partner.

Echo used to work as a sheep herding dog in Ireland before coming to the States, making this her second herding job, although she had to undergo some training. She is the latest in succession of Border Collies that have been employed by the south Fort Myers airport since 1999. Their first, called Jet, drew international publicity. When he died of natural causes, the loyal dog was laid to rest outside the airport’s training and conference center.

Bird strikes are a common cause of emergency airplane landings. One highly publicized case was the ‘Miracle on Hudson’, when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully landed his airliner on the Hudson River after a flock of Canada geese caused engine failure. All 155 passengers and crew members on board escaped serious injury.

American Airlines Flight 1498 from Mexico City was on its way to Miami around 11 a.m. local time on November 14, when a bird slammed into the nose of the plane. Bird strikes are not uncommon, however what made this instance unique was that the bird was left stuck to the plane for the rest of the flight, breaching the hull on the plane on impact.

Birds can be a hazard for planes in flight, but this time it was the plane that posed a very serious hazard to a bird. The aircraft was able to land and taxi without any problems, and no injuries to passengers or crew were reported. Unfortunately, the bird did not survive.

Local outlet ABC News 10 reported that an American Airlines employee called this particular bird strike is unusual.

“It is true that we deal with bird strikes, that does happen," they said. “But never like this." After landing, animal services retrieved the bird from the plane, which was then taken in for repairs. The bird had punctured a hole in the nose cone on impact and its head got stuck inside.

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