San Jose airport wants tougher bird strike measures

SAN JOSE, Calif.

San Francisco and Oakland international airports already have aggressive FAA approved programs to reduce the threat of bird strikes. In San Jose, there have been 180 reported bird strikes at the airport since 2009 and it wants the same options as the airports to the north.

The latest serious bird strike at Mineta San Jose International Airport happened just this month and involved a U.S. Airways plane. The pilot declared an emergency after takeoff and returned to the airport on one engine. Air travelers say such incidents are frightening.

"I have heard stories and they actually do seem kind of scary and I would be scared too if I were in that plane," said one air traveler.

The airport is now working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a wildlife hazard management program. It wants the city's OK to continue its practice of using cracker shells to scare birds with loud noise and also get permission to use deadly bird shot when needed.

"As a last, very last measure they will be permitted, if this item passes, to actually use guns on the airport to take birds by lethal means," said Mineta San Jose International Airport spokesperson Rosemary Barnes.

The FAA launched an aggressive crackdown to reduce bird strikes after the so called "miracle landing" on the Hudson in January 2009. Danville pilot Sully Sullenberger successfully landed his U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River after a flock of geese destroyed both engines. San Jose's 1,000 acre airport has large birds such as seagulls and raptors as well as flocks of smaller birds which can cause problems. Air travelers we spoke with think trained professionals should have options including deadly force.

"They obviously know the best case scenarios, how to take the least amount of action to secure the most good. I've got to leave it with them," said air traveler Cindy Powell.

The city council is expected to approve the airports more aggressive approach to bird strikes.

"Our number one priority is making sure 11 million passengers get into and out of the airport safely every single year. So we've got to do everything we can. We can't afford to be wrong even once," said San Jose City Council member Sam Liccardo.

The council will vote on Tuesday on whether to modify the municipal code to allow a USDA biologist and several trained airport operation personnel to fire weapons at the San Jose airport.

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