"Sully" may have saved dozens of human lives after landing a plane in the Hudson River a few years ago, but he doomed thousands of birds to death unwittingly.
It was one of the most incredible and heroic acts in modern U.S. history: “Sully” Sullenberger managed to land a jetliner on the Hudson River eight years ago after having his engines disabled shortly after takeoff by a flock of birds, and no one was seriously injured. They even made a movie about it recently with Tom Hanks taking the lead role. But what Sully couldn’t have imagined is that the 2009 accident has resulted in the wholesale slaughter of tens of thousands of birds, according to a report.
The Associated Press reports that bird-killing programs created in the vicinity of New York City’s three airports since the 2009 accident have resulted in the deaths of nearly 70,000 gulls, starling, geese and other birds, mostly dying from shooting and trapping, and there’s no indication it did anything to prevent another mishap.
LaGuardia and Newark airports in particular ramped up their bird-killing programs, and weirdly, something else also went up at the same time: bird strikes involving those airports. In fact, the two airports jumped from an average of 158 strikes per year in the five years before the accident to an astonishing 299 per year six years later.
That doesn’t mean that the culling programs are causing the bird strikes, which wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. There’s a good chance it’s just that there is much more dilligent reporting of them when they do happen.
Kennedy Airport, which sits at seaside, is an interesting exception because it is on a major route for migrating birds and therefore already had a robust bird culling program in place before the crash of Flight 1549. Reported strikes have also increased at the airport, adding further evidence that it is more dilligent reporting and not the culling program that is causing the increase. In fact, the number of birds killed has declined slightly in recent years.
But the findings indicate that authorities maybe killing huge volumes of birds for no apparent benefit, and some have suggested that authorities get together and figure out a better way to do things that doesn’t rely on killing birds. However, officials behind the programs claim that while it’s not apparent, the programs have made the skies safer, and noted that there hasn’t been a major crash since the “Miracle on the Hudson” involving a bird strike.
It was a flock of large Canada geese that caused problems for Flight 1549, wiping out two of its engines and forcing Sullenberger to guide the disabled jet onto the Hudson River. All 155 people escaped with their lives despite it being in frigid water in the middle of winter as dozens of boats came to their aid immediately.
The event launched Sullenberger into the national consciousness, and he was praised as a hero. Geese were immediately targeted by authorities hoping to prevent a similar mishap in the future. Wildlife officials armed with shotguns took aim at the birds, or set traps for them.