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WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 10, 2012, 10:07 PM

Hector International Airport battling bird problem

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Hector International Airport is battling a big threat: Birds. Pilots are now on the lookout even more after a recent flight was diverted and delayed after a bird hit a plane.

Hector International Airport is battling a big threat: Birds. Pilots are now on the lookout even more after a recent flight was diverted and delayed after a bird hit a plane.

Sanford Pilot Justin Fosberg says sometimes hitting a bird is hardly noticeable.

Justin Fosberg – Sanford Pilot: "Unless you saw it, you won't even know if you land."

The other times it can cause some serious damage.

Justin Fosberg: "Impact the wing, landing gear, at that point we return to the airport, have maintenance come out, take a look at it."

Crashing into animals sharing the skies is a risk pilots take when they take off Last week a red-tailed hawk crashed into a plane, delaying the flight for hours.

Justin Fosberg: "It's part of flying. That's where the birds live. It's where they are."

To prevent these problems, plans are in place nationally to keep birds from calling Hector International Airport home.

Shawn Dobberstein – Hector International Airport Manager: "To minimize insects and so forth by different spraying techniques."

Another one of the ways Hector battles birds is by keeping all this grass here nice and short. That stops birds from nesting here. If that doesn't work there are always fireworks.

Shawn Dobberstein: "Different shells, pistol, shotgun, there are companies that specialize in that."

Hector International Airport manager Shawn Dobberstein says the fight for the skies is endless, yet there's always ways to improve.

Shawn Dobberstein: "We send staff out to different training to find different techniques trying to minimize the effect birds have."

While research continues, communication is key to preventing pilots and passengers from potentially dangerous crashes.

Justin Fosberg: "Keep other pilots aware so if you do see any birds on takeoff to relay that information to the tower."

Hector also tries to prevent sunflowers from being planted near the airport. It's a big draw for birds.

The airport's insect sprays, fireworks, and grass-clipping techniques may sound threatening for the bird population, but they're perfectly safe says Doug Leier of North Dakota Game and Fish.

The insect sprays meet regulations. Leier says there's nothing to worry about, since most of the birds airports battle have a strong population.

Doug Leier – ND Game and Fish: "There is definitely a priority, and the priority is on human health and safety versus one individual animal."

The airport works with Game and Fish on a regular basis.

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