Keeping the skies above Changi Airport free of birds is critical for safe flight operations – hitting a bird, also known as a bird strike, can greatly damage an airplane, and endanger the lives of passengers in it. Case in point, the famous Miracle on the Hudson in 2009, where a US Airways plane departing from New York’s LaGuardia Airport was forced to land in the Hudson River, was caused by a bird strike with a flock of Canadian geese. Changi Airport Group (CAG) thus has an Airside Management Safety Inspection Team (AMSIT) of 12 officers, whose job is to ensure that the airport’s aerodrome is free of birds, as well as other wildlife, among other duties.
Starting at 6.30am every morning, AMSIT conducts patrols of the airfield at regular intervals throughout the day. The patrol team looks out for birds in the areas around the taxiways and runways, while also remaining vigilant for other non-avian animals that might have wandered into the airfield, like monitor lizards and dogs.
When birds – the most common ones being mynas, swallows, and swiftlets, with the occasional egret, kite and eagle– are spotted near the runways, the patrol team deploys an array of equipment, ranging from the high-tech to the more basic, to disperse them safely. Among the more advanced technology that is used is the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a large vehicle-mounted gadget resembling a large speaker, which projects sound waves to a distance of up to 3km to frighten birds away.