Prairie grass planted near runways at airports may help to deter problems with birds flocking around airplanes as they take off or land. There have been many reported cases of airplane crashes due to birds either breaking windows or getting into engines. Planting prairie grass may be a simple solution to help with this problem.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, bird strikes on airplanes are common, with about 10,000 bird strikes occurring each year in the United States. Young birds who are just leaving their nests are reported to be a particular problem and bird migration in the fall is associated with more strikes. It has been reported that 279 injuries and 25 deaths were caused by wildlife strikes on airplanes in the past 23 years.
Planting prairie grass near the runways at airports may be a good solution for this problem because it is inexpensive and not technically demanding. The reasoning for planting prairie grass is these are tall grasses and birds might think that predators are lurking in the tall grasses. The birds then tend to avoid the grassy areas. Geese are very large birds, and are the birds that cause the most damage to planes, and they would most likely be deterred by fears of predators living in the tall prairie grasses.
One of the most famous cases of geese causing problems with airplanes occurred in 2009. The US Airways plane that landed on the Hudson River in New York under emergency conditions was caused by Canadian geese. The Canadian geese strike happened only three minutes after the flight began and it caused loss of thrust from both engines. The captain and crew were heralded as heroes for the safe landing and expert evacuation of passengers.
The Dayton International Airport has begun a program to plant prairie grass on 300 acres of their airfield. They are planning to plant the grass under the landing and takeoff paths by the end of the year.
There are additional benefits to planting prairie grass at airports. The grass will help to prevent water runoff, it will assist with removing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and will require mowing only once every three years. Having fields of prairie grass at airports will also be more aesthetically pleasing and the birds will benefit because it will lessen their opportunity to meet up with the dangerous foe; that is, an airplane.
Alternative means to deal with birds potentially causing problems at airports is the use of poison or shooting the birds. These methods for dealing with birds are not optimal or desirable and the eco-friendly idea of planting prairie grass seems much better. Prairie grasses come in many colors and have tassels on top that blow in the wind, making waves in the grasses that are reminiscent of waves on lakes and oceans. Having fields of prairie grasses covering the massive amount of land at airports may help to deter problems with airplanes and birds and is certainly worth the effort to try it out.
Opinion by Margaret Lutze