I-Team Investigation: Bird strikes by planes flying in and out of Connecticut

The I-Team is looking at bird strikes by airplanes flying in and out of Connecticut.
Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 7:27 PM EST
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(WFSB) - The I-Team is looking at bird strikes by airplanes flying in and out of Connecticut.

Last month, one was responsible for causing a flight from New Haven to Florida to make an emergency landing at Bradley.

That got us curious: how often do these strikes happen, and what’s being done to keep passengers safe?

Thirteen years ago, the miracle on the Hudson magnified the consequences of bird strikes.

“The engines would have been ok had they just struck one goose but they encountered a flock of geese,” said Jim Rozman, pilot and aviation expert.

That’s an extreme case, but Connecticut’s airports see bird strikes too.

Last month an Avelo flight heading to Florida had to land at Bradley after hitting a seagull.

“The pilot made a decision that he wanted to check out the plane to make sure everything was ok and they went and landed at Bradley,” said Sean Scanlon, Tweed Airport Executive Director

Thankfully, the Avelo flight was eventually able to make it down south safely after the short delay.

The I-Team wanted to know how often these events are happening in Connecticut, so we started digging.

We learned that the FAA recorded 64 wildlife strikes at Tweed and Bradley since 2021.

“You hear a loud thump a loud noise,” Rozman said.

Rozman had two bird strikes in his career.

One hit the plane’s fuselage. The other collided with the plane’s nose.

“I didn’t even realize I hit the bird on the nose and saw all the feathers,” he said.

Rozman says most strikes happen close to takeoff or landing and happen most frequently between July and November when migratory traffic is high.

The FAA tracks wildlife strikes with this database, down to the date, species and damage caused.

The database recorded dozens of bird likely hits at Bradley and Tweed and possible collisions with deer and coyotes.

The FAA database shows 64 strikes total, with none of them causing significant damage.

Officials from both airports say the database goes above and beyond, to the point where everything recorded here may not have physically struck a plane.

“We’ll put any bird that we find on the airfield. So some could get caught up in the vortex that might not be categorized as a bird strike on an aircraft, but we’ll still put that in the database that we found it in the airport environment,” said Ben Parish, Director of Operations at Bradley Airport.

“They see an animal on the runway; they see an animal off the runway; that’s not an actual strike. It’s just a report of an animal being there,” Scanlon said.

“And it kind of gets categorized in the same way?” Eyewitness News asked.

“It gets categorized in the same way,” Scanlon said.

But these animals are still close to the airfields and can pose a threat.

What’s being done to keep you safe by keeping them off property?

We went to the airports to see.

Michael Parenteau is the USDA Airport Wildlife Biologist for Bradley.

Each day crews survey the land on and around the airport, looking for threats.

“Kind of fine tune it to why are we seeing this wildlife here. Come up with a reason and then either alter that habitat or remove it completely,” Parenteau said.

Using noisy flares is one way to do it, but the airport also keeps the grass low to discourage feeding and hiding.

They also use sirens and propane cannons to scare wildlife away, but will also trap and relocate.

“We try to reinforce this daily to keep as much wildlife from the airport as possible,” Parenteau said.

Those are the measures done daily, and thankfully it’s prevented catastrophe.

Bradley benefits from not being near any large bodies of water.

Experts say because it’s not near water, we don’t see the types of wildlife seen at airports like Logan, Laguardia and JFK that are closer to the ocean.

Tweed, however, is less than a mile from the sound.