Wildlife Management

Complete Wildlife Risk Management Series

Complete Wildlife Risk Management Series

Late last year, I posted that I was writing on another blog a complete series on an ISO31000 view of airport wildlife risk management. Well, that 7-part series is now complete and to view the whole series head over to my author page on New Airport Insider or you can read each post by clicking the individual links below.

Vegetation & Habitat Control

I've been doing a bit of clearing of land at my airport to make way for a new fence. We've had to expand our borders to accommodate those new instrument approach procedures I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Given that the airport is in "the bush", this meant knocking over a few trees to construct the new fence and make the new airside area completely manageable using tractors and mowers. So, we broke out the relatively cute D-6 dozer and set about clearing the new airport boundary and land.

Setting the Standard

This is me coming up for breath. I've been in the deep-end of airport operations for the last 10 months or so and I'm only just getting my head above water. I think (or at least hope) I've achieved a lot over the last couple of months but very little has been blog-worthy. However, over the last week or so, I've been swimming in that lovely little pool called Wildlife Hazard Management. And while I was re-writing my airport's Wildlife Hazard Management Plan, I stumbled across something I thought worthy of a share.

A long time ago, I wrote about integrating wildlife management and safety management with (as always) a focus on risk management. Well, I want to take this a little further.

The Wild Side of Risk Assessment

The crux of my previous post was that the risk assessment of wildlife sits within the risk assessment of safety and that they may use different techniques. The SMS-level might use a standard risk matrix (or not) and the wildlife risk assessment might use a different technique such as the Paton bird risk assessment model.

The Risk Management Process

The two techniques are really just tools within the fairly standard risk management process. As the global standard puts it:

RMProcess

I think that some of this stuff most of us do well but there is a step we've been missing. It's that dark green one - evaluation.

In Practice

Here is how I see most risk assessment processes going:

  1. We identify the risks - in this particular case bird species at or likely to be at the aerodrome
  2. We calculate a consequence and likelihood score for each species
  3. We assign each species to a risk category according to the model used
  4. We treat the risk - we think of stuff to do to address the identified risks

And all that sounds great but there is, to me, something missing. We might very well devise risk treatments that are sound and effective. We might even target those species that appear high up the list (let's call that, risk ranking, which doesn't appear in the standard). But how have we actually decided to do those things?

In Theory

Well, good ol' ISO 31000 defines risk evaluation as:

(The) process of comparing the results of risk analysis with risk criteria to determine whether the risk and/or its magnitude is acceptable or tolerable

and notes that:

(It) assists in the decision about risk treatment

So what are risk criteria? Again, ISO 31000 says that risk criteria are:

terms of reference against which the significance of a risk is evaluated

Damn it ISO, buddy, you went a bit circular there. So what do I think the risk criteria are?

I look to the note above, they guide you in the decision making process. You set up parameters, before hand, that tell you what to do with risk assessed at the various levels you've set.

Here's an Example

I've just put together the risk assessment framework I intend to use at my airport. I'm basing it on Paton but extending it to land animals as well. I describe the calculation of consequence and likelihood and then outline (via a matrix :( ) the calculation of the final risk level.

And then...

I define what must be done for each risk category/level.

Even before I've looked out the door to see what birds I have at the airport. These requirements are now set in stone. It holds me to a standard and allows for variations in the real-world context, which will occur, to be managed in a consistent and almost predictable way.

This standard allows my bosses, my airlines and my team to know what is expected if we encounter a situation where a species is assessed as "extreme" or "very high" or "negligible".

And for me, those standards are:

Wildlife Evaluation Criteria

Applying the Standard

Now, I go and look out the door. I, with the help of a qualified ornithologist or biologist, look at the environmental, operational and historical contexts and come up with a list of species. We score them and categorises them and then we have to do what the above table say we are going to do.

Any species assessed as "extreme" get their own plan (luckily none of them for me at this stage). Those at "very high" get general strategies that target them (for example, I will be implementing a short-grass policy to reduce my kite numbers) and so on.

As things change, I can also change my strategies with confidence as I have a standard to hold on to should I wish to drop strategies or introduce strategies.

And I think this is a good thing. Yes, you might get pinned in a corner and have to act in some cases but that is the point. You will be held accountable anyway and not setting a standard will not protect you if it all goes pear shaped - touch wood.

Bird Control Dessert: Fungrass*

Last week I blogged about the ACRP's new synthesis report on bird control techniques and on that very day, Airport International News reported on deterrent grass developed in New Zealand. This new grass is still being tested in NZ so its no wonder it didn't make it into the ACRP's report. The grass itself is bred with a fungus component designed to make the birds that eat it sick. Over time, the birds will move on and thus reduce the risk of bird strikes on the airport. My initial concerns regarding non-herbivorous birds were somewhat answered on the product's actual website where it stated that the same effect occurred in insects. I'm assuming the same for mammals (both as food-sources and hazards) - anyone know the answer?

It's an awesome idea and I can't wait to see some data from further trials. However, I think the article overstates the impact of a single risk control measure on the wide ranging problem of wildlife strikes. The problem of land side and off-airport attractants or even woodlands, swamps etc. still remains.

I'd love to hear more about how the product works. For me, it seems that the birds (maybe not individually but at least each population) must first consume the grass before it deters them. Therefore, every bird population must first visit the airport before they decide not to come back. I don't know enough about bird behaviour, society, learning etc. to pass judgement on that.

PS - I wonder if it will work out where I was last week?

* should I trademark that?

"The pilot who flew that plane" on Garbage near Airports

"One of the things we've learned is that one of the few ways to mitigate the bird problem is to not put anything near an airport runway that's likely to attract birds"

Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger discussing the plan to build a garbage transfer station less than a half-mile from LaGuardia Airport.

For the full story and video go over to the un-embeddable cbsnews.com.

Wildlife Management & SMS Integration

I may have suggested a couple of weeks ago that I was not going to carry on with material from my Indonesia trip in June but I really wanted to share this fictional case study with you. In order to highlight the interaction between strategic level SMS risk management and the more operational level risk management found in wildlife management plans, I developed the case study below. Its not really based on anything I've seen in action but more based on how I would approach the problem if anyone put me in charge. Background

Some sources put the cost of bird-strikes at $1.2 billion dollars per year. This makes wildlife hazard management a very important task for modern airport operators. It is however, a very big issue to tackle with a great deal of variety in operating environments, wildlife species, aircraft types and resources available.

This means that a single solution or prescriptive standard can not solve this problem. Instead, we turn to risk management as a way of reducing the chance and severity of wildlife related incidents to an acceptable level. PKPS 139 requires all airport operators assess the risk relating to bird and animal hazards and to implement controls to manage the risk. Even before any formal risk management process starts every operator already has people observing the wildlife on the aerodrome and reporting strike in accordance with the regulations. In SMS terms, major wildlife hazard management activities are usually initiated by safety assurance activities such as internal audits and investigations.

Strategic SMS Risk Register before Review

Beginning at the Top

In this scenario, an internal safety audit has identified a general increase in the numbers of birds on the aerodrome, plans for a garbage dump nearby and a couple of costly bird-strikes as concerns requiring formal risk assessment. The Safety Manager presented the audit’s report to the CEO and the CEO tabled the report at the next Safety Committee meeting.

The Safety Committee initiated the risk management process at the strategic level by reviewing its previous wildlife hazard risk assessments found in its risk register. The review found that a formal hazard management plan (operational risk management) was required.

Strategic SMS Risk Register after Review

As per the review, the Safety Manager engaged a qualified ornithologist with airport experience to develop a comprehensive management plan. This plan began with a full assessment of the wildlife on and in the vicinity of the airport and the environment on and off the airport. This assessment resulted in the identification of more specific hazards including each animal species – see below for an example of this type of risk assessment based on the model published by the Australian Aviation Wildlife Hazard Group. This assessment allows for the planning of allocation of resources to the most critical areas – for example, the grassed and wetland areas are more important than treed areas and ibis and galahs require more attention than quail, tern and swallow.

Species Specific Risk Register

From this point, the consultant works with the airport operator to identify potential risk treatments. These treatments cover a range of strategies including habitat control, feed control, harassment and reporting.

  • Habitat control – this strategy is targeted at the higher risk areas and species and includes longer grass in areas, filling in a number of ponds and the netting of potential nest sites.
  • Feed control – this includes efforts to minimise food sources such as removal of fruit trees, enclosed garbage areas, a mowing schedule to reduce grass seeding and a safety promotion campaign advising all airport users of the need to pick up rubbish.
  • Harassment – these efforts include a range of acoustic and visual harassment devises for airport reporting officers and a semi-irregular harassment schedule.
  • Reporting – two new reporting systems were proposed. The first consists of an external reporting system whereby significant wildlife hazards are reported directly to the aerodrome users’ safety/operations departments. These reports follow a standard format issued through the airside operations manager. The second system involves internal reporting of wildlife hazards according to specific risk-based triggers devised by the consultant. If during an inspection, the airport reporting officer notices a specific hazard in excess of these triggers, he/she submits a report to the Safety Manager. The regulatory requirement to report all strikes to the authorities continues to exist.

Monitoring consists of regular animal-counts typically carried out following the morning airport inspection. Tactical risk assessment consists of comparing this count results against the reporting triggers developed by the consultant (see above). Results below these thresholds are filed for future review.

These results plus records of wildlife strikes and any other report are reviewed annually along with the entire management plan. Deficiencies are identified and the plan amended as required. The results of these reviews are submitted to the Safety Committee by the Safety Manager.

More Information

There is plenty of information on the Internet on this issue. Here are a couple of links:

The Simian Menace

There's more whacky animal-airport news this week. This time, its India with a rampaging group of monkeys sending aircraft on go-arounds! This story has got the works - poor planning in the placement of a garbage dump nearby, the hard work being done by airport staff to mitigate the risk as best they can and the need for a coordinated response with some success.

Despite this, I continue to pledge my allegiance to the reptilian conspiracy attacking airports in the US and Australia.

image - (cc) from http://www.flickr.com/photos/7487149@N03/3513496542

"a sweep of the runway collected more than 20 bird carcasses"

I spied a couple of news reports of a mass bird-strike at DFW Airport today and the above quote jumped out at me. The procedure for checking the runway following a bird-strike is not required under Australian regulations and is not always included in the aerodrome manual - despite being a really, very, really good idea. In this instance there were no injuries although there was some damage to the aircraft. But the concern is not the struck aircraft, it's what's left on the runway. Twenty dead birds present an attractive meal for a predator or scavenger (including domestic animals) and any aircraft debris is also a hazard to other aircraft.

Unusual Wildlife Hazards

Its been a week of unusual stories relating to wildlife and aviation. The big one making its way around the internet at the moment is the one involving the big red flying rat1. But the one I personally encountered this week involved geckos. One of the aerodromes I visited this week had a problem with geckos and the printed circuit boards found within a Pilot Activated Airport Lighting Control and Aerodrome Frequency Response Unit (PAL+ARFU). Apparently, they like to damage such things and this unit had already been found unserviceable and sent off for repair. Somewhat luckily for this aerodrome, it is currently closed due to works but upon resumption of passenger flights some form of radiocommunication confirmation system will be required within seven days.

Image of Gecko Damaged Board

Geckos have become a problem in Queensland and this company2 even offers a treatment service to combat the problem, albeit aimed at air conditioning units.

I'm also reminded of the Brisbane Airport wasp issues from 2006 and it goes to show you that birds & kangaroos needn't be the only wildlife considered a hazard at your airport.

1. A term of endearment, I swear. 2. I have no knowledge of this company or this service but I thought it proper to link to them since I used their damaged circuit board picture above.