Jet is a one-and-a-half-year-old Harris hawk with a straightforward mission: to scare local birds away from runways at Manas International Airport outside of Bishkek. Employed by the US Air Force, operator of the Manas Transit Center, the hawk is a key component in the BASH (Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard) program, designed to stop birds from colliding with aircraft on takeoff or landing.
She is a busy raptor. Every month, the Air Force runs over 500 flights transporting 36,000 American troops and over 10 million gallons of jet fuel through Manas in support of the war in Afghanistan. Most air passengers are comfortably unaware of the hazard stray birds pose to their flights. But for pilots and airport administrators, they are a constant menace.
Bird strikes have caused accidents around the world, perhaps most famously the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson," when Canada geese disabled the engines of an Airbus A320 soon after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia airport in January 2009. Though no one died in that accident, a similar 1995 strike in Alaska left 24 dead.
To read the full story
David Trilling is the Central Asia news editor for EurasiaNet.