Sunday, August 15, 1999

Dogs keeping birds off runway




BY TANYA ALBERT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Buddy scampers across the grass but never the runway. The specially trained border collie and his understudy, Chase, are recent additions to the Lunken Airport ground crew.

        Their job: Scare off geese and other birds that can collide with planes during takeoff and landing, but stay out of the way themselves.

        “Bird strikes,” as they're known in the aviation world, can mangle engines.

        “If you're on an approach and you ingest one (in an engine), you could drop like a rock,” Lunken Airport Manager Daniel Dickten said.

        Nearly 2,500 bird-plane collisions occur in the United States each year, according to a 1998 Federal Aviation Administration report. Ohio ranks seventh in the nation for the number of bird strikes between 1991 and 1997; Kentucky ranks ninth.

        At Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, workers shoot blanks when birds and deer venture too close.

        A month ago, the crew at Lunken put away its whistles and other noisemakers and took a cue from other small airports, and added by adding Buddy and Chase.

        Since 1992, there have been 20 reported bird strikes near Lunken, according to airport statistics. In 1981, a co-pilot died and a pilot was injured over Lunken Airport when a loon crashed through the twin-engine jet's windshield. In February, a corporate jet flying out of Lunken was forced to land after a mallard duck flew into one of the engines, shutting it down.

        Peter Bruemmer, a private pilot who flies in and out of Lunken, likes having the dogs at Lunken.

        “I think it's necessary because any wildlife that an airplane hits can cripple the plane. There are a lot of birds down there,” said Mr. Bruemmer, of Mount Lookout.

        At night, Buddy and Chase retire to a kennel adjacent to the maintenance building or head home with one of the employees.

        Come morning, Buddy is on the job.

        About 7:30 a.m., Lunken Airport Maintenance Supervisor Michael Brenner lets Buddy out to run in the grassy areas near the runways. Buddy chases off birds found too close to the planes' paths, but doesn't attack the birds. Chase, a 5-month-old puppy, will join the morning runs when he's a little bigger.

        “Most of our traffic is in the morning ... and the geese usually won't come back down,” Mr. Brenner said. “But we'll take them out again in the day if we get reports of birds.”

       



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