Birds have a history of plaguing operations at airports around the world, but now Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands has a solution – pigs. Located on reclaimed land situated below sea level six miles from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport is the third-largest airport in Europe.
The airport occupies 10.3 square miles and is surrounded by crop-growing farmland and wetlands that attract flocks of wild geese. As we all know after the US Airways flight 1549 had to land in the Hudson River, geese can be a hazard to aircraft. All 155 people onboard the Airbus A320 survived thanks to Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger’s quick decision-making and his ability to land the plane on the water safely. However, Amsterdam Schiphol wants to avoid any such incident.
Schiphol is looking at a unique solution
Besides having 15 full-time bird controllers who drive around to ensure Schipols six runways are bird-free, the Dutch airport has developed a unique solution. Between two of the airport’s runways is a sugar beet farm. When the farmer harvests the crop, geese and other birds would arrive to feed on the leftover scraps and worms in the turned-over soil.
In an experiment to see if putting pigs on the land after the harvest would deter the birds, the airport enlisted pig farmer Josse Haarhuis to let 20 of his pigs stay on the site for six weeks. A pig-free area of similar size at the airport will compare the differences between the two locations. The airport has installed a special bird detecting radar to see whether the pigs’ presence makes a difference.
Schiphol Airport is very bird-friendly
When speaking about the experiment to Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf, Haarhuis said:
“The pigs were immediately brought to the field within 12 hours of the sugar beet harvest on Tuesday. They eat the crop residue so that there will be nothing left for the geese to get.”
Because of Schiphol Airport’s low-lying location, and its tendency for standing water, it is very bird-friendly. In 2019. Dutch national flag carrier KLM reported 6.6 bird strikes per 10,000 aircraft movements. As a result of the danger posed by bird strikes, Schiphol Airport’s bird controllers are in constant contact with the tower providing bird updates using walkie-talkies.
Besides using noise cannons, scarecrows, and even lasers, the airport’s primary bird defense was killing thousands of geese by shooting them. In 2014 airport workers were responsible for killing 7,000 geese. Due to their size and the fact they fly in flocks, geese pose a severe threat to aircraft and are a danger if left to congregate around the airport.
If the pig experiment works out well, perhaps this will no longer be necessary. Let’s hope that the pigs can do their job, and there is no longer a need for the geese to be culled in such large numbers.
What do you think about Schiphol’s idea of using pigs to deter geese? Do you think it will work, or will the geese still be there despite a lack of food? Please tell us what you think in the comments.