Only recently has a conclusive report been given on why a Malaysia-bound AirAsia X flight was forced to land in Brisbane last July, less than an hour and a half after take-off from Gold Coast airport. This was not the first nor the last of such an incidence, and experts have now tabled “bird strike” as the reason for the emergency grounding.
For someone who spends so much time on planes traveling across the country and the globe, safety is, of course something that is constantly on my mind. And for what is considered as among the top threats to planes, more airports are adopting a simple, yet effective way of combating bird strikes in way of synthetic turf installation on airport runways and taxiways. Many airports across the world are replacing natural grass with synthetic grass on their runways, and it is not all about the aesthetics, but as a safety consideration.
No Food for the Birds
Natural turf contains organic matter which makes it a good habitat for worms and other insects. It is these insects that some birds feed on and that is why it’s a common sight to find these birds, in their numbers, lining up on runways. Some even feed on the grass seeds. The birds will always flock to areas where they can find a sufficient supply of food and having natural grass on and around the runways makes the runways the perfect spot for the birds, posing the danger of a bird strike during take-off and/or landing.
Benefits of Artificial turf, on the other hand, cannot support life, meaning worms and other insects cannot make a habitat of the artificial grass. Without any source of food, runways with synthetic grass become unsuitable as habitats for birds. It may look as good as the real thing, but the birds will quickly realize that there is nothing for them there and as a survival instinct will quickly abandon the runways and find elsewhere.
Fake Grass, Real Solution
Airport management authorities across the world take, with all seriousness, their mandate to minimize damage to the aircraft and reduce or even eliminate risk to passengers. The decision to replace natural grass with artificial grass is informed by this mandate. These authorities have also found that installing artificial grass is not only effective, but also an eco-friendly bird control measure.
The engines on an aircraft are designed to ingest birds, but there are set limits on the size of the birds and how many of these birds the engine can ingest and keep going without experiencing serious problems or failure. Exceeding these limits in a bird strike is not uncommon.
Can birds down a plane? Definitely. Millions in damages to aircraft and the serious endangerment of lives that bird strikes can cause can be avoided by installing artificial turf on runways. Along with other measures, replacing natural grass with artificial grass around airports is an effective way to alleviate the dangers of a bird strike.