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Civil aviation committee to control bird strikes fails to meet for three years

The collision of a SpiceJet Boeing 737 plane with a buffalo at Surat airport in November brought to spotlight the dangers of bird strikes and animal intrusion at airports.

Post the incident Surat airport director was transferred to a remote airfield in Assam and an inspection was ordered of all airports to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

While the civil aviation ministry acted swiftly post the Surat incident records show that the government has not been exactly serious about the hazards of animal and bird hits to planes.

The National Bird Control Committee (NBCC) comprising of top bureaucrats of civil aviation, defence and environment and representatives of airlines and airports has not met even once in over three years.

The NBCC was formed in 2009 to undertake steps to enhance air safety through exchange of know-how and co-ordination between airlines and air force. Its functions include collection and analysis of data, monitoring of bird control programmes at airports and impose fines or order compensation to airlines which suffer loss on account of bird strike.

Information secured from the Right to Information Act shows that three meetings of NBCC have been held till now – June 2009, November 2009 and June 2011.

The NBCC was reconstituted last December by the then Directorate General of Civil Aviation Arun Mishra but has not met till now. Sources say that DGCA has been taking up the issue of organising NBCC meetings with the civil aviation ministry but effort has yielded no result.

Airport operators have detailed standard operating procedures on measures to be taken to prevent animal intrusion and this includes daily check of perimeter wall, patrolling in case of breach of wall, runway inspection and cutting of grass on the airside.

Also the Rule 91 of Airport Rules 1937 allows airports to register police cases against slaughter houses and hotels in the vicinity of airport which litter and can attract birds. However there has hardly been any police action against offenders.

“There have also been instances in the past where contracts hired by airport managers cutting only particular grass with a sale value and leaving shrubs and bushes uncut,” said a retired Airport Authority of India official.

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