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Fri, Aug 20, 2010

Missing UK Vulture Could Be A Hazard To Airplanes

"Gandalf" Gone With The Wind

A vulture with a 10 foot wingspan went missing when it was "caught by a gust of wind" during a demonstration in Cumbernauld, Scotland, and the bird's handlers say it could be a hazard to aircraft.

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

The vulture was reportedly the star attraction for the World of Wings Center in Cumbernauld, and was flying a display in the Scottish town when it suddenly soard skyward. The bird is an endangered Ruppell's Griffon vulture, and there are only about 30,000 of them in existence. The World of Wings Center said it allowed the bird, which was brought to the UK as part of a breeding program from its native Africa, to fly free each day so that members of the public can see them "in their full glory."

But on this day, the wind got under Gandalf's wings, and the handlers on the ground could only watch as she soared up and out of sight.

The BBC reports that the disappearance has caused National Air Traffic Services to warn pilots about the wayward bird. World of Wings Center director David Richie says the vulture can fly as high as 36,000 feet, and her size could make her a real danger to an aircraft. The CAA says it is taking the problem seriously. "All operators have been notified," a spokeswoman said. Over at the Cumbernauld Airport, a spokesman said the vulture is "half the size of some of our small training aircraft and it could take one of them, or even a helicopter, right out."

FMI: www.worldofwings.co.uk, www.nats.co.uk


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