BASH: Keeping an eye on the sky

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariette Adams
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
MacDill Air Force Base, Florida encounters a wide range of wildlife, such as coyotes, raccoons and various types of birds throughout the base and for this, MacDill relies on the work of the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program for aircraft safety to prevent wildlife and bird strikes.

From sunrise to sunset, BASH program members patrol the airfield before aircraft take off or land and anytime between. This is to deter wildlife away from the airfield to prevent them from being hit by aircraft.

"Tampa sits in a confluence of several migratory paths which makes our BASH program even more essential to aviation safety here at MacDill," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Jeffries, flight safety NCO in charge assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing (AMW).

With wildlife come possible life threatening hazards on the airfield.

"Since 1993, in the U.S. Air Force, a total of 16 aircraft have been destroyed by wildlife and 29 servicemen and women have been killed," said Kory McLellan, a wildlife biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture. "Worldwide, more than 290 people have lost their lives from bird and wildlife strikes. Every year in North America wildlife strikes cause more than $900 million in damages and economic losses."

Due to kinetic energy, even a small bird or animal can create significant damage to an aircraft that is going 150 miles-per-hour. For example, a 12-pound bird that is struck by an aircraft traveling at 150 mph generates the kinetic energy of a 1,000 pound weight dropped from a height of 10 feet.

For that reason, BASH works diligently to keep the airfield clear of wildlife.

The BASH program uses various techniques including but not limited to pyrotechnics to disperse wildlife on the flightline, placing exclusionary devices to prevent birds from nesting in dangerous areas, and filling holes under fences to prevent animals from gaining access.

Additionally, BASH members collect and record information about the birds on the airfield during their weekly surveys.

This effort helps them keep track of species populations, seasonal fluctuations, preferred habitats, and the time of day wildlife most utilizes the airfield. The data collected helps them track each species and create or adjust a plan to handle the specific wildlife. 

The efforts of BASH have proven effective as wildlife strikes have decreased each year.

"We reduced the amount of wildlife strikes from 60 in 2013, down to 50 in 2014, and 42 in 2015 with zero damaging wildlife strikes in the past two years," said McLellan. "All while having an increase in aircraft movements by 24 percent in the past year."

Along with the reduction in strikes, BASH also reduced the amount of time spent in elevated bird-watch conditions, where birds limit aircraft takeoff and landing.

"We have been able to reduce the amount of time spent in elevated bird-watch conditions from 45.8 hours in 2012 down to 8.6 and 8.8 hours in 2014 and 2015, respectively," explained McLellan.

The members of the BASH program keep an eye on the sky so the Airmen at MacDill are safe, and in turn, are able to complete the mission.

"First and foremost, the work we conduct here at MacDill is to keep the pilots, crew and passengers safe," said McLellan. "Secondly, we are protecting and ensuring the functionality of the aircraft that are both based here and transient. Thirdly, by maintaining a wildlife-free airfield we can prevent bird-watch conditions that can negatively affect aircraft operations."