A constant threat at many of the world's airports is the danger of birds being sucked into jet engines, causing planes to crash.
A constant threat at many of the world's airports is the danger of birds being sucked into jet engines, causing planes to crash. Many techniques have been devised to scene birds away and at Hong Kong's airport there now is employed a full time ornithologist.
SYNOPSIS: A plane crash at any airport can be a disaster, but at Kai Tak international airport it's almost a certainly. That's because it is built next door to one of the world's most densely populated areas.
Aircraft take off and land less than 200 yards (183 metres) from the crowded high-rise residential blocks of Kowloon city.
Another problem is the sea. The runway is built on a strip of reclaimed land and a sewage outlet that attracts seagulls.
The birds are the responsibility of Dr. David Melville, the airport ornithologist.
It's his job to make sure the gulls don't interfere with aircraft. The main threat is the gulls being sucked into a jet engine where they can break off the turbine blades.
Dr. Melville's weapon is a loudspeaker system which broadcasts tape recordings of bird distress calls. The recordings are played from a boat positioned off the airport. The sounds confuse the birds and they gather overhead. Once enough are there, the boat moves off, leading the birds away from the flight path area.
The calls Dr. Melville uses are not local ones. His tapes were supplied by the British Ministry of Agriculture and at first he was worried that Hong Kong seagulls would not understand the different sounds made by their cousins -- British gulls.
But Kai Tak airport's seagulls have responded well and stay clear of aircraft more than in the past. Bird strikes, however, still continue at a rate of about three for every 10,000 aircraft movements. And Dr. Melville himself agrees that despite the precautions being taken, a fatal strike could occur at kai Tak International Airport at anytime.