Pigs could solve bird strike problems

Image copyright MXAC

If you’re flying somewhere international, good luck flying with your cabin crew, passengers and overhead storage space. But one pilot thinks that pigs might help cut down on avian strikes.

A pilot with the North East Queensland Air Pilots Association (MXAC) believes pigs should be more closely monitored because of their prodigious productivity.

Keith Elliott says pigs are light-weight, their ears are close to the nose and therefore they have a great awareness of bird behaviour.

More than 50,000 birds hit aircraft every year, killing one person every three days.

It’s the most common cause of airframe damage and one of the leading causes of fatal accidents.

Image copyright MXAC Image caption The MXAC has supported a trial to see if pigs could help lower the number of bird strikes

Mr Elliott believes chickens and pigeons have to be checked more, but an older belief is that birds don’t like pigs.

But he told The Conversation that a lot of birds they’ve found don’t like pigs but when they do get close to each other it really shouldn’t cause any problems.

“If it was closer to the hole than you are when you land then you would fly a bit faster so you could get more force,” he said.

“And if it flew faster so you could bank to take on some turbulence it might help with your landing.

“But that’s not what it’s about. The main point is that the flight path itself would take them within arm’s reach of an area with a lot of birds so they would have very good and many kind eyesight.”

Mr Elliott said there was no way of accounting for all the pig’s productivity and would make cost saving claims should its calculations be proved.

Dutch developer Steve Woods has been working with MXAC on a chicken wall concept, which he hopes will reduce bird strikes by keeping them away from the airports that are their target.

Image copyright MXAC Image caption Pigs could help keep bird strikes away from airport runways

Pigs are far from the only type of bird to contribute to avian strikes.

President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Karoline Banks, said there were many different theories about how bird strikes occur and some would be eliminated by a variety of possible solutions.

Focusing on pigs now could just be a trial to investigate the other options.

Image copyright MXAC Image caption Pictures of piglets stuck with farmer’s nets during a test flying demonstration were shown during the MXAC conference in Belfast

“Biomimicry can be an important tool in reducing aviation hazards by investigating how natural systems work to achieve sustainable environmental benefits,” she said.

“Birds often deliver beneficial effects by mitigating harmful external factors which could pose real risks to aviation, such as increased turbulence.”

“Drilling into nature to reduce environmental hazards or to increase environmental benefit has frequently been seen as a more cost effective solution than behavioural modification and people may be wondering whether it is effective in this area.

“Another often-cited policy option involves reinforcing tower safety culture. This has the potential to focus on making building owners and operators safer by adopting means of behavioural change to mitigate hazards.”

Image copyright MXAC Image caption Mr Elliott believes pigs could deliver environmental benefits for aeroplanes

But she suggested that a complete change to bird control methods, instead of focusing on solutions that still address underlying cause and causes, was necessary.

Ms Banks said it was important to remember that food poisoning was also a leading cause of passenger illness caused by bird strikes.

Other research has shown that in many cases, the amount of food that birds eat does not vary according to the location and the budget of a farm.

The MiAC has supported research in the Netherlands with animal actor Koops, a dwarf hamster, to see if food originating from a litter of chipchips could avoid unintentional aerial energy migration.

“It was called Chipiquette and was developed to deal with bird strike vulnerabilities. It was a reference method, so they found, because of its nature, that it would not be a good solution for anything else,” said Mr Elliott.

“It might have a role in an alternative approach to reduce bird strike vulnerabilities.”

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