Pilot project working to prevent airplane strikes and save threatened geese


Wildlife strikes can pose a serious threat to airplanes as well as the animals. In an effort to prevent it from happening, a pilot program recently launched on the garden isle to reduce the nene goose population nesting near Lihue Airport.

The Hokuala Timbers Resort covers 600 acres of land located adjacent to Lihue Airport and the nene often nest there especially between August and March, their breeding season.

Their proximity to the airport poses a danger to both the threatened nene and to the planes.

Aviation analyst Peter Forman says airplane strikes are a serious matter.

“Particularly geese are real problem for airplanes. The lighter airplanes, the geese can go right through the windshield. We saw that happen on Lanai when I was flying there. A pheasant went right through a windshield almost taking out a passenger. If they get into the engines, the jet engines, they can shut down the engines. Just like miracle on the Hudson. Sully’s airplane he lost both engines because of striking geese,” Forman explained.

Specially trained border collies were brought in from the mainland for the project. Their goal is to flush the birds out and scare them off-without hurting them.

A member of the USDA said it is significantly reducing nene goose numbers in the resort.

Forman said that reducing the wildlife population around airports can also reduce the number of airplane strikes.

“Whatever they can do to discourage ducks and geese from nesting near the airport really helps.”

Although the pilot project is specific to the Hokuala Timbers Resort next to Lihue Airport wildlife airplane strikes happen across the state.

There have been 74 strikes logged so far this year in Hawaii with Daniel K Inouye Airport and Kahului airport topping the list.

Wildlife Airplane Strikes 2019
31 Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
22 Kahului Airport
9 Lihue Airport
6 Hilo International Airport
5 Molokai Airport
1 Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport

Forman said the number of strikes has risen in recent years.

“I think we see probably more strikes then a couple of decades ago. And I think it’s because of growth of cities and getting into the normal habitat of the wildlife,” Forman explained.

The pilot project on Kauai will run through March, which marks the end of the nene breeding season. The information will be used to develop a more long term project to prevent the nene from nesting near Kauai’s main airport.

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