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Wed, Jan 28, 2009

Avian Radars Coming To O'Hare, DFW International

Bird Detectors Now In Use At SeaTac

While safety investigators and attorneys both have they're reasons for looking back on the forced landing of US Airways Flight 1549, the FAA and wildlife biologists are looking ahead to a day when technology might reduce the risk of bird strikes on aircraft.

The Associated Press reports that inexpensive radar equipment originally designed for marine use will be tested soon at a number of US airports to see if it can play a useful role in tracking the movements of flocks of birds.

The radar has shown itself capable of detecting bird movements as far as six miles out from an airport. The challenge now is to manage the echoes using computers to create a useful warning system for air traffic controllers and perhaps, one day, pilots.

Aero-News recently talked with Steve Osmek, wildlife program manager for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Osmek notes SeaTac officials have been evaluating bird radar since mid-2007. A third detector was deployed last week. Aimed at low, medium and high angles, the three systems can help detect not only the heading of a flock of birds, but altitude as well.

Chicago's O'Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth will both be equipped for the test within three months.

With Flight 1549 still a fresh memory, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey last week asked the FAA to consider installing the systems at all three of its major airports.

Osmek expects controllers may soon have information useful in warning pilots about major flock movements. As for real-time, in-cockpit warnings similar to current terrain and collision avoidance systems, he cautions, "we're years off from that happening."

You can listen to our two-part interview with Steve Osmek, released January 22-23, at the FMI links below.

FMI: Listen To Part One, And Part Two

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