Tell Me Something Good
Dog helps protect planes & passengers at RSW airport
FORT MYERS, Fla. - Passengers at Southwest Florida International must go through strict security before boarding that flights, but the airport is doing something else most do not see to keep them save.
"I'm one of two canine handlers. We work with a four year old border collie named Sky," said Ethan Groop, an operations agent at RSW.
He works with the female border collie on the grounds surrounding the runways to keep it clean of wild animals.
"Our primary objective out here is to make sure that there are not birds in the areas where planes will operate."
Groop works the 6-a.m. to 2-p.m shift... another handler comes for the evening shift to work with Sky, who's been doing this same routine.
According to FAA records, there have been 61 bird strikes at RSW since Dec. 2011.
None of the birds strikes caused any serious damaged to the aircrafts involved, but it highlights the importance of the job Sky does every day.
The most famous bird strike issue happened in 2009, when US Airways flight 1549 crash landed into the Hudson River shortly after take-off. The plane flew through a flock of geese moments before the crash.
It is believed that geese were sucked into both engines, damaging the aircraft and led to the crash in which no one was injured.
In the grass surrounding the runway at Southwest Florida International Airport, there was no shortage of birds and the staff knows exactly when they will see the most.
"When the mowers get close to the runways and taxiways, the birds get closer."
That's because the lawn mowers kick up kick up bugs, which the birds feed on around the runway. In addition, the drink from retention pounds in the same area.
Sky is not the only line of defense against the birds that gather near the runways and taxiways.
"We use screamers, bangers, anything to kind of scare the birds away from the runway, away from the aircraft for safety," said James Hess, an operations supervisor at RSW.
But staff at RSW will tell you that the best line of defense in Sky, who does not attack the animals, but herds them and chases them away.
"It's something we take very serious here and we devote a lot of time energy to it," said Groop.
Sky activeness can be seen in the lower number of bird strikes at the airport.
The last incident to take place was back on April 28th. On the very same day, there were two bird strikes on two separate aircrafts, with no serious damage.