Hare-y Landings: Watch out for Critters at Ukrainian Airports

Aug 22, 2018

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Like a Looney Tunes episode gone wrong, hares are causing a tizzy at airports in Ukraine, where the long-legged critters may be running amok on runways.

In July alone, there were three incidents where aircraft struck hares (otherwise known as jackrabbits), according to the Ukrainian government. That’s compared to a single hare-raising plane-on-rabbit situation in Ukraine all of the six months previous.

On July 12, a LOT Bombardier DH-8D landing at Lviv Danylo Halytskyi Airport (LWO) and an Austrian Airlines CRJ-9 landing at Odessa Airport (ODS) struck hares. On July 27, a Ukrainian International Airlines jet reportedly struck a hare as well. Unlike in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the hares didn’t prevail in the end: In the first two cases, airport crews discovered the carcasses of smushed leporids on the runways. The planes were not damaged, and no humans were injured in the incidents.

Animals have been making flying messy for airlines since Wilbur Wright hit a flock of birds over Dayton, Ohio, in 1905. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of animal collisions involve birds in flight, and the Federal Aviation Administration says the number of wildlife strikes has been increasing steadily — in the US, mourning doves, kestrels, plovers, gulls and owls in particular seem to have a death wish, according to FAA statistics. Perhaps most famously, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese over New York City in January 2009, wrecking the engines of the Airbus A320-214 and forcing a waterborne landing in the Hudson River. All passengers survived, and Capt. Chesley Sullenberger was hailed as a hero.

But suicide by plane is rampant among land animals as well, even if it’s much rarer. (In 2011 to 2012, the FAA found that while 97% of wildlife strikes involved birds, 2.2% were caused by terrestrial mammals and 0.1% by reptiles. The remaining 0.6% of strikes involved bats — watch out, Charlotte-Douglas (CLT)!)

In just the month of April 2018, the last for which FAA wildlife-strike data was available, planes took down jackrabbits in three separate incidents at Denver Airport (DEN), Pueblo Memorial Airport (PUB), El Paso Airport (ELP) and Corpus Christi Airport (CRP); and possums met the wrong end of jet landing gear at George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Memphis (MEM) and Lafayette Regional in Louisiana (LFT). Other varmints that stood in the way of the aviation industry included an armadillo at Southwest Georgia Regional (ABY), snakes at Mississippi’s Jackson–Medgar Wiley Evers (JAN), a white-tailed deer at Raleigh Executive Jetport at Sanford-Lee County in North Carolina (which doesn’t have an IATA code but has the ICAO code KTTA), a raccoon at New York’s LaGuardia (LGA), a striped skunk at South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartanburg International (GSP) and a wild turkey at West Virginia’s Huntington Tri-State (HTS). And as if to dare the intervention of an unreasonably lucky roadrunner, a Cessna CitationJet struck a coyote at Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (TRM) outside Coachella on April 20.

There were no reports of wildlife strikes with stuttering pigs, gun-totin’ prospectors, bald hunters with speech impairments, hungry house cats, pedantic roosters, Tasmanian devils or politically incorrect mice, but there were more dead ducks than we cared to count.

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