BASH: A job ... for the birds!
By Master Sgt. Shayne Sewell, 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office
/ Published May 31, 2007
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. -- The 459th Air Refueling Wing has "hired" a new member to the wing staff ... a four-legged member who answers to the name Jackson. Nearly seven months old, Jackson is the only dog hired here in the history of the 459th Air Refueling Wing.
Owned by Maj. Eddie Miller, 459th Air Refueling Wing safety chief and pilot, Jackson, a black-tri-Australian shepherd, comes to work with 'dad' once or twice a week to train.
"At this point he can run for about 15 minutes, but when he is fully grown he'll be able to run for an hour to scare the birds off the airfield," Major Miller said.
Jackson works with the active duty airfield manager as part of the Bird Avoidance Strike Hazard Program. Jackson will aid in decreasing bird activity in conjunction with other tactics to rid the birds of flying and nesting around the airfield.
The ultimate goal is for fewer birds to get sucked into aircraft engine intakes. Not only can it potentially be hazardous for the aircraft and passengers on board, but it can also be extremely costly, as even the smallest of birds can strike the engine and destroy it.
Common birds who fly and nest near the Andrews Air Force Base airfield are seagulls, buzzards, Canadian geese, and red tail hawks to name a few.
Tactics to scare these birds from the flight path include whiz bangs and air cannons which make loud noises and remote control cars. Aircraft owned by the 459th gets about 50 bird strikes a year and, depending on where the bird hits, the engine can cost six figures to replace.
At his young age, Jackson is going through socialization training.
"He has to be able to listen to anyone giving him a command," said Major Miller. "He needs to be able to lie down and come back on command."
He gets to go to the airfield now for about 15 minutes to train. But eventually, Jackson will get the opportunity to go to the airfield for up to an hour when there is no air traffic to chase the birds.
The airfield managers and the air traffic control tower work together to find the right time to chase the birds. Typically, Jackson will be called in when pilots complain of bird activity in the airfield path or if nests are spotted.
How did Jackson get so lucky to have a job fighting air strikes for the Air Force? Major Miller always wanted to bring his dog to work. "It's a worthwhile cause if I can bring him to work and he is able to help aid us in avoiding bird strikes," said Major Miller.
Major Miller has heard about the success of using dogs to combat bird strikes in other places. Over time, the birds do eventually leave he said. According to Major Miller, having dogs chase the birds away does have a direct link to a decrease in bird activity on airfields.