You can now expect a smoother flight to and fro Mumbai airport because the number of bird hits, one of the major causes of flight delays, has dropped dramatically.
There have been only three cases of bird hits — a situation when an aircraft taking off collides with birds — in the last three months.
This is a marked improvement over the same period last year, when 13 bird-hit cases disrupted flights.
Bird hits could lead to a crash as in the case of the US jet that miraculously landed in the Hudson river in New York earlier this year.
Such damage means airlines have to spend huge amounts on repair. If a bird enters the propeller (engine) of the aircraft, it can cause damage of up to Rs 5-7 lakh.
The airport has undertaken several measures to reduce the frequency of bird hits. It has bought several advanced bird shooing devices.
The airport operator has also set up a monsoon wildlife management team — a special group to tackle bird hits.
“The most important objective is to maintain the grassland habitat around the runway in such a way that birds are not encouraged to feed in areas close to the runways and taxiways,” said the Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson.
The group of 30 bird chasers deployed on both sides of the runway now have high-decibel German-made guns and laser bird-repellent torches that are very effective in scaring birds away, especially when it rains heavily.
The airport management has hired 20 more bird chasers just for the monsoon because birds are attracted to the grass cover on the airfield that breeds insects.
The apron control staffers, who allot parking bays to flights after they land in the city, have also been armed with air rifles and air guns.
Next month, two more special bird-combat devices called the bird whistlers and bird bombs will be added to the tool kit.
While studying bird movements around the airfield airport staff found that commonly found birds normally fly between 50 and 1,500 ft — roughly the height at which a flight takes off or approaches the runway to land.
The most commonly found birds were identified as the pariah kites, cattle egrets, crows and pigeons.