Wildlife is a major problem for airports in the Cayman Islands and around the world, costing the airline industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year in damage to aircraft, said officials from the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA.)
To tackle the problem, the CIAA hosted its annual Wildlife Hazard Working Group Meeting on Tuesday, 17 November at the Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA).
According to the CIAA’s Chief Safety Management Officer, Andrew McLaughlin, “Since safety is the top priority, the Airports Authority has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to wildlife in the aircraft maneuvering areas. CIAA staff conduct at least four scheduled runway inspections and countless other special inspections as needed daily to ensure that the airport runway is free from wildlife which includes various birds, iguanas, cats and dogs.”
Over the last several years the CIAA has experimented with a wide variety of methods to deter wildlife from the airport including trapping and relocation, as well as scare tactics that involve the use of a propane powered air cannon, which causes a loud popping noise. CIAA staff members also frequently drive around the airport beeping horns to move the birds away.
The Airports Authority has also once again partnered with St Matthews University faculty and students for a detailed yearlong wildlife study that will focus on habitat modification to make the airport less appealing to wildlife.
The last study was completed back in 2011 and resulted in airport staff getting a better understanding of not only what species of hazardous wildlife was resident on the airport, but their behavioural patterns as well. This understanding is paramount in effective wildlife control according to Mr McLaughlin.
Hazardous Wildlife Training is continuous for CIAA staff with one member of the Airport Operations Team recently completing an overseas wildlife mitigation course and two more personnel attending annual recurrent training.