SAN ANTONIO --
The U.S. Air splashdown in the Hudson River put a face on a longtime industry problem of birds striking planes.
Paul Eschenfelder, a Texas aviation safety advocate, said the industry is lagging behind.
"Wind shear was an act of God and we mitigated that. We can certainly mitigate the birds," Eschenfelder said.
Eschenfelder claims airlines are running the other way. Southwest Airlines does train pilots through simulator training. In 2004, the airline made reporting of bird strikes mandatory. The Federal Aviation Administration has yet to do that.
James White, deputy director for Airport Safety Standards for the FAA, said about 39 percent of bird strikes are being reported, explaining it is adequate to manage the problem.
Currently, there are no plans to make reporting mandatory, but in light of the Hudson incident, the FAA has made the national bird strike database available to the public.
Other changes include requiring more wildlife assessments at airports around the country. The San Antonio International Airport completed its assessment in October 2008.
"Not only did we follow through with the study, and satisfactorily complete the study for the FAA, we're one of about five airports that actually keeping the SMS (Safety Management System) program going on a daily basis," said airport spokesman Rich Johnson.
Part of implementing what was learned during the study included hiring a wildlife management specialist whose primary purpose is mitigating wildlife hazards.
Some of the strategies being used for wildlife disbursement include setting off sirens and firecrackers to scare off flocks of birds.
The average number of bird strikes at the San Antonio airport ranges from 25 to 35 a year, although in 2008, that number jumped to 47.
"Most of the time, birds hit an airplane and they just bounce off, but when you do that over and over again, sooner or later you're gonna come to grief," Eschenfelder said.
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