Avoiding and Surviving Bird Strikes | Aviation

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“What the —!”  the learner cried out as we rolled out from landing.

Ahead of us some 1,000 feet down the runway there was a bald eagle standing on the centerline, scarfing down the carcass of what looked like a large white rabbit. We brought the aircraft to a stop as the bird stopped its feeding frenzy and hopped toward us, spreading its wings and obviously saying, “Come at me, bro!” in eagle.  

We had three choices: We could try to scare the bird away by heading toward it and run over the carcass in the process, go off the runway to the side and take our chances in the grass area that needed mowing, or we could do a 180-degree turn and taxi back. I chose door number three and in taking the aircraft demonstrated the pivot turn to the learner.   

As he taxied us back to the ramp, I got on the unicom and reported that there was an eagle parked on the runway. That brought out the airport manager with his truck and big shovel. He scared off the bird by waving the tool, then picked up the remains of the white rabbit and flung it into the woods on the east side of the airport. The eagle flew after the carcass. Within 10 minutes there was a warning on the one-minute weather about wildlife in the vicinity of the airport.   

The airport manager later told me that as it was May and the carcass was that of a white domesticated rabbit and figured it was a pet Easter bunny that had been dumped. Sadly, this happens a lot and pretty much condemns the animal to death. He also noted that there is no such thing as one rabbit, suggesting the abandoned pet was pregnant when it was left and likely mixed with the wild population, resulting in more rabbits. Their presence attracts the higher predators such as coyotes and eagles—two animals you definitely don’t want to hit with an aircraft. He was right. In the following weeks, there was an uptick in coyote and eagle encounters at the airport.  

One of the most frequently asked questions is how much…

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