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Queens Chronicle

U.S. DOT slams FAA on bird strikes

Friends of LaGuardia: report aids claims of lax trash facility oversight

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Sep 6, 2012.

Opponents of a trash transfer station under construction near LaGuardia Airport are seizing on a recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation to support their claim that the facility was subjected to inadequate local and federal review before it was approved.

In a 30-page report issued on Aug. 22, the inspector general for the U.S. DOT states that the Federal Aviation Administration has not effectively implemented its wildlife hazard mitigation program at a number of airports nationwide.

Friends of LaGuardia Airport is in federal court to halt construction of the garbage transfer station in College Point, located less than 2,200 feet across Flushing Bay from the the end of LaGuardia’s Runway 13/31, one of the busiest in the world.

The group claims trash at the station would draw birds to the area at the end of 13/31, and that the FAA approved the location of the transfer station “contrary to its own regulations.”

“The ... Inspector General’s report ... offers clear and independent evidence that validates what Friends of LaGuardia Airport has been saying for several years: that the Federal Aviation Administration has failed to properly manage its responsibilities to minimize the dangers of deadly bird strikes to airliners,” FOLA said in a statement issued on Friday.

Kennedy was one of the airports chosen at random for the study. LaGuardia was not.

Page 5 of the IG’s report states that the FAA “did not oversee whether airports complied” with federal wildlife strike program requirements and says on the next page that “FAA inspectors did not always ensure that airports’ wildlife hazard assessments and plans were adequate and met all regulatory requirements.”

FOLA contends no wildlife hazard assessment was conducted at LaGuardia before approving the transfer station.

The same report claims that while the FAA “recommends wildlife strike reporting, it does not require it. Consequently, not all airports choose to report all their wildlife strikes.”

Friends of LaGuardia Airport claims that birds will come to feed on the 3,000 tons of garbage that will be processed each day, as well as on the rats that are attracted to it.

The Bloomberg Administration, which chose the College Point site, claims that the facility will be fully enclosed and therefore will draw no wildlife.

Bird strikes, long a hazard to aviation, have been in the news especially since the 2009 Miracle on the Hudson, when a US Airways jet flying out of LaGuardia with 155 on board lost all power in both engines as it flew through a flock of migratory Canada geese about three minutes after takeoff.

Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and copilot Jeff Skiles eased the crippled airliner down into the Hudson River with no loss of life.

Sullenberger has since enlisted in FOLA’s cause to stop the facility, as has Jim Hall, who served as chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board under President Clinton.

A bird strike in April forced a Los Angeles-bound Delta 757 to return to Kennedy with 179 people on board.

In July the U.S. Department of Agriculture, prompted by a law pushed by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), rounded up 751 geese from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge near Kennedy and had them killed.

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