Setting the Airport Wildlife Hazard Scene

7 Steps to Airport Wildlife Risk Management

This is part 2 of a 7  part series exploring the use of the ISO 31000 risk management framework in the Airport Wildlife Risk Management; part 1 was about establishing an Airport Wildlife Risk Management Framework.

A good airport operator knows that bird strikes and other airport wildlife hazards require special attention.  In part 1 of this series, Safety Management System (SMS) processes had identified the overall risk associated with the hazard and you began consulting with your airport stakeholders.

But before making a list of bird and animal species and checking it twice, we need to set the context for the rest of this process - after all, context is everything.

As we are dealing here with a very operational form of risk management, we are going to need a very operational context. The objectives of this step in the ISO31000 risk management process are to get all stakeholders on the same page and to pave the way for the risk assessment.

The Big Picture

There are quite a few pieces to this jigsaw puzzle and, of course, they will vary for each airport but the following is a good start.

1. Operational Context

This includes the basic details of the airport operation such as who operates the airport, its operational hours, critical aircraft, number of flights and passengers, etc. This information will plug into the analysis section of the risk assessment.

2. Environmental Context

This section starts to build a wider picture. First, I would situate the airport in the wider world - general location, basic geography and climate.  Then I get specific with the following:

  • Off-Airport Habitats and Activities  Within a 15km radius of the airport, what environments exist and activities are undertaken which will cause birds and animals to come to or transit over your airport? The big ones are human-related such as garbage dumps, sewage plants, slums, agricultural, etc. But natural environments should also be considered with natural food sources and roosting locations need to be considered.
  • On-Airport Habitats Due to the proximity to operating aircraft, this area requires more scrutiny. Each environment on the airport needs to be identified and understood. This includes natural areas like grasslands and heavier vegetation as well as man-made areas like garbage stations and perching structures.
  • On-Airport Activities Look to what you do that may attract birds. Mowing is a big one on my airport but others include lighting attracting insects and transferring garbage.

3. Historical Context

Within the airport environment, events have occurred which contribute to the risk picture.  These events include:

  • Natural Phenomena What has occurred or does occur at the airport to bring the wildlife? Seasonal weather variations, migratory activity or, as in my airport’s case, insect infestations.
  • Strike History This one is pretty straight forward and a big part of the analysis process.
  • Count History  A serious amount of bad luck is required for a bird strike, so strike data might not provide the full picture. Counts really help to fill in the gaps.

Building a Picture

This step can go a long way in identifying the sources of airport wildlife risk, but we’ll get to that next. Instead, this step can be limited to airport stakeholders discussing the context over a map or two of the airport and its surroundings. The real trick is to get this down on paper so that step forms the foundation of each progress set.

In part 3, we will get out “there” to see what birds and animals we have at and around our airport. Before you grab your sunglasses, hat and sunscreen, why not help build our context by leaving a comment below?

Additional Resources More information on wildlife hazard management and bird strikes can be found at: