Saturday, 20 October 2012

Birdstrikes - the threat is real

If DCC thinks birdstrikes are just a theoretical possibility, and that Exeter Airport is being overly protective of its flightpath and the surrounding airspace, it should think again.

The dangers of birdstrike are all too apparent from the video produced by Grass Engineering, a company in the business of making grassland around airports less attractive to birds.

But birdstrikes have an economic impact too. Even though 65% of birdstrikes cause little damage to the aircraft, "the cost of bird strikes to commercial aircraft worldwide has been estimated to be in excess of $1bn annually" - 12% for direct damage and the rest for delays and cancellations. For example, Easyjet: "The aircraft operating the inbound flight experienced a birdstrike during landing and needed to undergo a mandatory safety inspection by our engineers"; Flybe: "The Embraer 195 aircraft is now being inspected by engineers and the passengers were re-accommodated on a replacement aircraft"; Ryanair: "The majority of birdstrikes Ryanair encounter do not cause damage to their aircraft, however the commercial cost from delays is significant."

Airport "operators are required to take the necessary steps to ensure that the birdstrike risk is reduced to the lowest practicable level". If Aggregate Industries was to quarry Straitgate, it would have to do so without creating any bodies of water. 

Could AI dig a deep hole at Straitgate Farm and not expect it to fill up with water? As young children learn in the sand on the beach, it's not easy. Maybe if the hole was just restricted to the limited resource above the water table. Maybe if the hole was pumped out in perpetuity. Maybe if it was infilled with inert waste. Maybe if it stopped raining.

In 1967, when the Devon River Authority considered English China Clay's application to quarry Straitgate, it was agreed that the lake created from extraction needed to cover an area of 49 acres in order to mitigate any flooding effects on nearby communities. Local residents, farmers and no doubt the Environment Agency will question any claim by AI that it is now able to quarry Straitgate creating only an ephemeral body of water, particularly as, according to some locals, the water table is now at its highest in living memory.

ephemeral: transitory, short-lived, temporary, fleeting. Unlike a quarry, or the threat of one.