Bird strike risk a major hazard for Lydd

10.1.2008   (RSPB)

A new report warns that expansion of tiny Lydd Airport in south-east Kent could
create a serious bird strike risk to passenger aircraft.   The assessment, written
by Professor Chris Feare, a bird management expert, describes the site where airport
operators want to extend the runway and rebuild the terminal as ‘extremely hazardous’
likening it to the abandoned plan to build an airport at nearby Cliffe Marshes,
another magnet for thousands of birds.

Professor Feare was commissioned by the RSPB to assess Lydd’s Bird Hazard Control
Plan because the charity’s 1,000-acre Dungeness reserve is next to the airport.

‘This report proves that Lydd’s plan is a non-starter and that it should be scrapped
before it goes any further’ he said.

Dungeness is the RSPB’s oldest reserve and its largest in the south-east.   The
reserve and surrounding area hosts up to 120,000 birds in winter and the site
itself attracts more than 60 breeding species in summer.

In his report, Professor Feare says Lydd’s plan to reduce the bird strike threat
is vague and inadequately considered, and that pilots may need considerable flexibility
to avoid putting their flights in danger.

He says detailed studies of bird migration patterns in spring and autumn would
be vital together with research on the altitudes at which different species fly.

A radar system, such as that used at RAF Kinloss and La Mercy Airport in South
Africa, is a ‘basic requirement’ at Lydd, Professor Feare adds.

He warns: ‘It is… remarkable that such an airport development is being considered
in an area where [such an] abundance of wildlife already exists and receives legal
protection, especially as the birds that are numerous in the area include most
of the species that are perceived as especially hazardous to air safety in the

‘Much more detail is needed to convince a reader that bird hazard management
is being given the priority that it warrants at this site.’

Professor Feare has recommended measures the airport should take to minimise
risk, such as netting ponds and lakes, and preventing birds nesting in aircraft
hangers and on roofs.   He highlights Lydd’s failure to properly address these
issues and warns that bird-scaring staff will have to be thoroughly trained and
never diverted from their tasks.

Only light aircraft and small executive jets currently use Lydd and the RSPB
has campaigned against the airport’s expansion plans because of the damage extra,
larger planes could do to birds and other wildlife at Dungeness.

‘Utterly irresponsible’

Experts anticipate considerable disturbance to birds flying to and from feeding
and roosting sites and harm to rare plants and insects from higher emissions of
pollutants.   The RSPB also believes plans for improving existing habitats and
creating new wildlife sites would be jeopardized because the airport could object.

Shepway District Council will vote on whether to sanction expansion at Lydd at
a special meeting on January 30.

Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB, said: ‘This report proves that Lydd’s
plan is a non-starter and that it should be scrapped before it goes any further.

‘The threat posed by so many birds sharing airspace with such large planes is
so great it makes the expansion plan utterly irresponsible. Dungeness is one of
the UK’s most important sites for wild birds and other wildlife and it is absurd
even to contemplate enlarging an airport next to it.’