By DAN REYNOLDS, senior editor of Risk & Insurance®
A garbage-transfer station now under construction in a Queens, N.Y., neighborhood has raised questions about flight safety and some legal action from an aviation safety advocate.
Construction on what is known as the North Shore Marine Transfer Station began in the College Point section of Queens and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. Under New York's public waste management plan, the station is needed to handle garbage produced by the borough's 2.29 million residents.
Although plans call for the transfer station to be enclosed, there are fears that the three-level station will attract birds, which can be hazardous to jet and airplane traffic.
News photographs of the US Airways Flight 1549 that ditched in the Hudson River in January of 2009 after colliding with a flight of Canada geese are now iconic pieces of American history.
Due to the expert flying of Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, all 155 passengers and crew on that flight survived even though both engines of the jet were knocked out when they inhaled geese.
AIG covered the loss and when, as a part of its leasing agreement, US Airways transferred title to a plane it owned and was making payments to the leasing company to cover the loss, it ended up "extinguishing" $22 million in debt, according to the airline's 2009 annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
That historic flight departed from LaGuardia Airport. It is to and from LaGuardia that many flights will travel hence. And there are many birds there or thereabouts.
GEESE, A RISK AND RISK TO
Warning, if you are an animal rights activist or a fan of the 1996 tear-jerker "Fly Away Home," in which a family rescues a flock of orphaned Canada geese by constructing a flying machine and helping them fly home, you might want to skip this section.
What is less well known than the name of now-hero "Sully" Sullenberger is the fate of more than 3,000 Canadian geese and their unhatched goslings after the "Miracle on the Hudson."
To prevent similar accidents, workers from the United States Department of Agriculture teamed with New York City workers in June and July of 2009 to capture and gas 1,235 Canadian geese and to destroy another 1,739 goose eggs.
That's how seriously aviation officials take the threat of bird strikes and how close they felt they could have been to a disaster instead of a miracle in the case of US Airways flight 1549.
That's also why Kenneth Paskar, an aviation activist, has filed a lawsuit against the city, saying that the construction of a garbage-transfer station, not 2,000 feet from the end of one of LaGuardia's runways, no matter how well managed it is, is sure to increase the number of birds and raise the risk of bird strikes.
Paskar could not be reached, but plenty of ink has been spilled in a report commissioned by the US Department of Transportation on this very topic.
RANKING OF AT-RISK AIRPORTS
One nugget from the report that bears reading is a ranking of airports within the Federal Aviation Administration's Eastern Region.
Among Eastern Region airports, LaGuardia ranks second in the frequency with which birds and airplanes collide, according to that report. LaGuardia records eight bird strikes per 100,000 aircraft movements, according to the report. That lags only Norfolk, Va., among Eastern Region commercial airfields. That airport records 8.8 bird strikes per 100,000 aircraft movements, according to the study's authors.
Compare that with bird-strike incidents at Philadelphia International Airport, which is also located near a body of water, the Delaware River. That airport reported just 1.6 bird strikes per 100,000 aircraft movements between 2004 and 2008.
So it's not like bird strikes aren't an issue already at LaGuardia.
Officials acknowledge that at the transfer station's base of operations, on a promontory jutting into Flushing Bay, that birds--like gulls, ducks and geese--are going to be prevalent.
"Given the location of the proposed site of the North Shore MTS on Flushing Bay, the potential exists for large numbers of many species of birds associated with marine and/or urban environments to be present on or near the proposed building site," the report's authors write.
City planners say the fact that the site will be enclosed and that it will receive only closed containers of waste should mitigate the risk.
"Refuse will not be exposed at the facility--not upon entry in an enclosed vehicle, within the enclosed facility or upon exit in a sealed container," wrote Stephen Goldsmith, a deputy mayor for operations with New York City, in a letter to the New York Times, after a column critical of the transfer station was published.
"In addition, the facility will include an odor-neutralization system, and the Agriculture Department will monitor conditions to ensure that the marine transfer station does not become a wildlife attractant," Goldsmith wrote.
Meanwhile, the bird strikes at LaGuardia have continued. On June 30, 2009, not six months after the "Miracle on the Hudson," incoming American Airlines Flight 1256 at LaGuardia was struck by flying waterfowl. The blow created a hydraulic leak in the plane's landing gear and the plane had to be towed to its arrival gate.
July 19, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications