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'BASH' helps mitigate risk

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As the weather begins to warm up, you will begin to see more and more wildlife around Peterson Air Force Base. You'll see bunnies, squirrels and birds of all kinds. While it might be tempting to feed the critters on base, it is important to remember that while cuddly and cute, wildlife has the potential to pose a serious hazard to aircraft operating in and around Peterson Air Force Base and the Colorado Springs Airport.

So how do we ensure the safe coexistence of aircraft and wildlife?

Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH) program. 

BASH program personnel have a variety of wildlife mitigation techniques, both direct and indirect, that are employed to find balance between nature and mission safety. 

Direct methods include dispersals using pyrotechnics, air cannons or trained dogs to scare wildlife away, traps to relocate, and in some cases toxicants. 

Indirect means are the most common and include landscape management practices such as vegetation removal to exclude hazardous wildlife from the area, or simply mowing grass areas to achieve a desired height that deters loafing or nesting species on or near runways. 

BASH program personnel work hard to understand the behaviors of migrating and resident wildlife populations, their habitats and their prey. By understanding these behaviors, program personnel are able to employ the appropriate wildlife mitigation technique.

The Peterson BASH program personnel conduct on average 6,000+ wildlife dispersals annually.  Ensuring the safety of flight operations is a team function. The Peterson BASH team consists of Wing Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 21st Operation Support Squadron, Colorado Springs Airport operations, Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control, 21st Force Support Squadron, 21st Security Forces Squadron and 21st Civil Engineer Squadron.

Darron Haughn, 21st Space Wing flight safety manager, provides overall program management and Doug Ekberg, USDA Wildlife Services, provides the day-to-day execution of the program with assistance from all team members.

Through the proactive approach of program personnel, wildlife strikes at Colorado Springs Airport / Peterson average about one per 5,000 aircraft movements (takeoffs and landings) each year.

Some recent  program highlights include bat proofing of the Air Traffic Control Tower, introduction of Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) runway surveys, coyote GPS collaring, bird crop analysis, prairie dog mapping, grazing research and targeted vegetation removal to name a few.

Our continued success depends on a much greater team than those assigned to work the BASH program. Just as we all have an OPSEC responsibility to be a sensor, each of us can be a BASH sensor. 

I recently noticed an owl nest on base with several fledglings while out driving and immediately reported the location. BASH team members are now able to formulate a plan to mitigate the hazard to both the owls and aircraft by monitoring the nest. Once the fledglings mature and depart the area, nest removal will occur, thereby preventing future broods from inhabiting a location not conducive to safety. 

The ultimate goal of every BASH program is the preservation of safe flight operations through the reduction/mitigation of wildlife hazards to aircraft. Inevitably, there will be bird/wildlife strikes.  

Through program awareness and cooperation, whether you are a member of the BASH team or not, we can continue to lower the BASH risk and save both wildlife and mission resources.

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