New York Has Been Waging War On Geese, To Save Planes

New York Has Been Waging War On Geese, To Save Planes

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Six geese a-laying ...

Many people reading this remember the Miracle on the Hudson. In January 2009, an airliner went down over New York, and instead of crashing to the ground in an explosion of fiery death, it made a successful water landing on the Hudson River. Not a single person died or even got seriously injured. The pilot, Sully Sullenberger, became a hero, and was most recently appointed as ambassador to the UN's aviation organization.

Now, do you remember why the plane failed? It hit a flock of geese. Bird collisions are common enough that they have multiple formal names, including "birdstrike" and "bird aircraft strike hazard," the latter of which has the awesome acronym "BASH." Birds entering an engine are known as a "bird ingestion," and a BASH and ingestion brought Flight 1549 down. The film about the event, Sully, in search of conflict, painted the National Transportation Safety Board as Sully's antagonist, but if they really wanted a fun movie, they should have made it about a roaring rampage of revenge against New York geese. 

That's not our little joke. New York actually did respond to the Miracle on the Hudson by killing tens of thousands of birds. New York's airports—LaGuardia, which launched Flight 1549, but also JFK and Newark—kept 20 men and women with shotguns to shoot approaching birds. They kill around 10,000 birds a year, and there's no need at all to mourn the geese who die this way, because geese are mean and cruel creatures, who delight in our misfortune. 

The other issue is geese a-laying, and the Department of Agriculture has a separate process for dealing with eggs: addling. Through egg addling, you coat goose eggs with oil, cutting off the air supply and keeping them from ever hatching. Bird shooting is all very controlled (we have international treaties normally protecting migratory birds, so you can't just go vigilante on them, particularly within city limits), but everyone's welcome to get in on the egg adding action, so long as you follow regulations.

As a result of the coordinated campaign against birds in NYC airspace, the number of birdstrikes went from an average of 158 per year before the Miracle on the Hudson to ... 299 per year after it. Huh. It's possible we're just better at documenting birdstrikes, say reporters, diplomatically. 

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Top image: Mahima Hada


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