Pyrotechnics used to scare birds from airport
A NOISE cannon to scare away ibis and cattle egrets is one weapon airports use in the war against bird strikes - and Ballina is no exception.
Ballina Byron Gateway Airport is one of a number of regional airports listed as using the pyrotechnic method to discourage birds in the latest report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
The report showed despite experiencing 21.74 bird strikes in 2015 - a six-fold increase from 3.16 in 2014 - the airport suffered no damaging strikes.
Overall, the airport experienced an annual average of 6.51, according to the report Australian aviation wildlife strike statistics: 2006-2015.
Airport operations manager Graeme Gordon said while ibis, cattle egret and flying foxes were the biggest risk species, there were a range of methods used to repel other birds and also animals at Ballina.
He said the airport, which could service more than 500,000 passengers a year , took its people and aircraft safety very seriously.
"Noise cannons are part of our wildlife management plan, as is continual observation," he said.
"Wildlife management is the highest expense in my budget. When you add up the pyrotechnics (noise cannon) and pest control it is in excess of $75,000, but is it worth every penny - we get good value for the dollar."
The airport employs wildlife and bird strike consultants Avisure, to undertake a monthly inspection.
Avisure manager Jeff Follett said he ranked Ballina Byron Gateway Airport as one of the best in the country due to its wildlife management plan.
"They have excellent commitment to safety and their communication with landowners - private, commercial and government - to reduce bird numbers near the airport," he said.
Mr Follett said when reading the national transport safety investigator's report, it was vital people understand the size and species of the birds involved in strikes.
"More important than the number of strikes is the mass of the bird," he said.
"While the number of bird strikes in 2015 increased and movements stayed constant, what's important is they (aircraft) are not striking a number of large birds."
He said the increase in strike numbers could be due to a number of uncontrollable external factors including plants flowering and wet or dry weather conditions.
The largest increase in the rate of bird strikes was observed at Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Gold Coast and Sydney, according to the report.