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Nevada Airmen help Air Force avoid birds during flying operations

  • Published
  • By By Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Bynum
  • Air Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs
The Chief of Safety from the Nevada Guard's 152nd Airlift Wing based in Reno briefed Air National Guard safety leaders and other key safety personnel Jan. 28 here on new innovative anti-bird strike procedures that make Air Force flight operations safer.

Lt. Col. Anthony Machabee, the 152nd Airlift Wing's Chief of Safety, led a team of Airmen who decreased the gap between two existing technologies and built upon the work already accomplished by Dr. Russell DeFusco, a doctorate biologist and bird aircraft strike hazard expert. Combined, the entities greatly improved the Air Force's Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard Program.
The innovation by the Nevada Guardsmen allows aviators to graphically view real-time bird activity along low-level training routes and transition bases moments before they launch their low-level missions and establish risk levels based on the data and alter or delay flight plans. By using the information provided with the Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard Google Earth Situational Awareness tool, Airmen can now make quick decisions regarding flight safety.

In 2006, the Air Force Safety Center directed the Avian Hazard Advisory System contractor to add a Google Earth plug-in. While the Google Earth plug-in has been available for some time, it was useless as a viable tool for Air Force units until now. The 152nd AW Safety Office took integrated data from AHAS in conjunction with Google Earth to make a usable tool depicting real-time bird activity using the Bird Avoidance Model, Soaring Model, and Next Generation Radar data to employ the BASH Google Earth Situational Awareness tool.

"Avoiding birds in Air Force flying operations just got a lot easier," said Col. Edward Vaughan, the Chief of Safety of the ANG. "The Google Earth plug-in for U.S. Avian Hazard Advisory System has been unusable by most Air Force flight operations until now. Lt. Col. Machabee and his team at the Nevada Air Guard pioneered the successful application of the Google Earth plug-in for bird strike risk mitigation."

"I am proud to work with such talented citizen Airmen with the technical know-how and skill to put this solution together," Machabee said. "Before this innovation, all you had to look at was tabular data and try to figure out where the birds strike hazards were; now we have an easy-to-use visual aid to help our Airmen."

By using the innovative BASH GESA tool to graphically plan low-level training routes, flight crews can mitigate the risk of bird strikes. Prior to departure, crews will determine bird strike risk along the low-level training routes or at the transition airfields by referring to the BASH GESA tool. This new capability has the potential of saving lives and millions of dollars in damage caused by bird strikes each year.

"Bird strikes are a serious safety concern for all flying operations," Vaughan said. "Each year, tens of millions of dollars and often lives are lost due to bird strike related mishaps. Just last month, the Air Force lost an $8 million training aircraft in Texas due to a bird strike.

"This is just another example of Air National Guard Airmen identifying a problem and coming up with a viable solution. Our Airmen proved that focused execution can turn a good idea into a winning solution. Flying operations will enjoy an effective new tool in mishap prevention."