Meet the wildlife specialists at OIA working to keep you safe from bird strikes

The Federal Aviation Administration says bird strikes on airplanes are on the rise with nearly 350 reported in Florida so far this year alone.

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According to the data, approximately 16-percent of those bird strikes have occurred at Orlando International Airport.

Fortunately, the airport employs a team of wildlife specialists dedicated to keeping travelers safe on their flights.

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Johnny Metcalf is a Wildlife Biologist and the Assistant Vice President of Airfield Operations at OIA. Metcalf says without him and his team working to keep birds away from the airport, flying could be much more dangerous.

“We’d have a lot more strikes and we’d have a lot more damage,” Metcalf said. “We’re one of the few airports in the country that has a dedicated wildlife team.”

They employ a number of different strategies to keep birds away, including pyrotechnics that scare them away, moving them out of a flight path.

They also take certain preventative measures, like fishing in nearby ponds

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“Water is an attractant, and the things in the water are attractants,” Metcalf explained.

A special device allows the wildlife teams to momentarily stun the fish in a pond so they can be collected and moved to another pond much farther away from any runways, thus keeping the birds away.

Metcalf has been on OIA’s team for more than two decades and says the wildlife hasn’t changed as much as the airport and air travel have.

“Bird strikes are going up because air travel is getting busier and busier,” Metcalf said. “We’ve got more and more places that are intersecting the airspace with birds, so it makes it a little bit more challenging,”

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However, Metcalf says flyers have nothing to fear with him and his team out working from sun up to sun down watching and working more than 12,000 acres to keep you safe in the skies.

“So don’t fear that,” Metcalf said. “Because you’ve got us.”

Orlando International Airport is one of the few with a dedicated wildlife mitigation team.
Orlando International Airport is one of the few with a dedicated wildlife mitigation team.

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