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Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony D. Machabee, chief of safety of the 152nd Airlift Wing
Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony D. Machabee, chief of safety of the 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, Nev., briefs Air National Guard safety personnel on new innovative anti-bird strike procedures Jan. 28, 2014, at the Air National Guard Readiness Center, Joint Base Andrews, Md. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Marvin R. Preston/Released)
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Air National Guard makes avoiding birds during flying operations easier

Posted 1/30/2014   Updated 1/30/2014 Email story   Print story


by Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Bynum
Air National Guard Readiness Center Public Affairs

1/30/2014 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.  -- The Chief of Safety from the 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, Nev., briefed Air National Guard safety leadership and other key safety personnel Jan. 28 here on new innovative anti-bird strike procedures that are making Air Force flight operations safer.

Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony D. Machabee, 152nd AW chief of safety, led a team of citizen Airmen to bridge the gap between two existing technologies improving upon the work done by Dr. Russell P. DeFusco, a doctorate biologist and bird aircraft strike hazard expert, to take the Air Force BASH Program to the next level.

"Avoiding birds in Air Force flying operations just got a lot easier," said Air Force Col. Edward L. Vaughan, chief of safety of the ANG. "The Google Earth plug-in for [U.S. Avian Hazard Advisory System] has been unusable by most Air Force and ANG flying operations until now ... Lt. Col. Machabee and his team at the Nevada Air National Guard have pioneered the successful application of the Google Earth plug-in for bird strike risk mitigation."

In 2006 the Air Force Safety Center directed the AHAS contractor to add a Google Earth plug-in. While the Google Earth plug-in has been available for some time, it was unusable as a viable tool for Air Force and ANG units until now. The 152nd AW Safety Office took integrated data from AHAS in conjunction with Google Earth to break the code to make a usable tool depicting real-time bird activity using the Bird Avoidance Model, Soaring Model, and Next Generation Radar data to employ the BASH Google Earth Situational Awareness tool.

"I am proud to work with such talented citizen Airmen with the technical know-how and skill to put this solution together," said Machabee. "Before this innovation, all you had to look at was tabular data and try to figure out where the birds strike hazards were; now we have an easy-to-use visual aid to help our Airmen."

This pioneering approach allows aviators to graphically view real-time bird activity along low-level training routes and transition bases moments before they launch their low-level missions and establish risk levels based on the data and alter or delay flight plans. By using the information provided with the BASE GESA tool, Airmen can now make quick decisions regarding flight safety.

"Bird strikes are a serious safety concern for all flying operations," said Vaughan. "Each year, tens of millions of dollars and often lives are lost due to bird strike related mishaps. Just last month, the Air Force lost an $8 million training aircraft in Texas due to a bird strike."

By using the innovative BASH GESA tool to graphically plan low-level training routes, the Air Force and ANG can mitigate the risk of bird strikes. Prior to departure, crews will determine bird strike risk along the low-level training routes or at the transition airfields by referring to the BASH GESA tool. This new capability has the potential of saving lives and millions of dollars in damage caused by bird strikes each year.

"This is just another example of Air National Guard Airmen identifying a problem and coming up with a viable solution," said Vaughan. "Our Airmen proved that focused execution can turn a good idea into a winning solution. Flying operations will enjoy an effective new tool in mishap prevention."

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