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New York Airports Have Killed 70,000 Birds Since 'Miracle on the Hudson'

Jan. 18, 2017
2 min read
New York Airports Have Killed 70,000 Birds Since 'Miracle on the Hudson'

Seven years after US Airways Flight 1549 successfully ditched in the Hudson River when a bird strike knocked out both engines, about 70,000 birds across all three New York airports have paid the ultimate price in the name of safety. The number comes from an Associated Press study of avian abatement programs since the "Miracle on the Hudson."

Since 2009, federal data shows an average of 10,000 birds were killed every year between LaGuardia, JFK and Newark. The birds include seagulls, starlings and geese, both local and migratory.

Although the airports have become increasingly vigilant at keeping birds away from planes, there is no indication that commercial aircraft are any safer for the efforts. According to data from the Federal Aviation Administration, both LaGuardia and Newark reported over 160 bird strike incidents in 2015, the last year where a full data set was available. At JFK, there were 209 reported bird strikes in 2015. In 2008 — the year before the Hudson ditch — there were 150 reported bird strikes at Kennedy, 99 at Newark and 90 at LaGuardia.

The AP found that bird strikes have increased since 2009. Between 2004 and 2009, all three airports reported an average of 158 bird strike incidents every year. From 2009 to 2015, the reports increased, jumping to an average of 299 bird strike incidents across the three airports.

Opponents to the bird abatement programs claim killing the birds is not the correct answer to protect commercial aircraft. Instead, they suggest a variety of other ways to improve aircraft safety, including upgrading radar systems that can detect birds. However, officials for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say they will continue the bird abatement programs, with the goal of keeping feathered flyers outside of a five-mile radius of the airports.

Lethal means are not the only way the airports are trying to keep birds away from the airports. Additional abatement efforts include the use of pyrotechnics, lasers and trap-and-release programs.