Amsterdam Schiphol Airport tests pigs to protect planes from bird strikes
(CNN) – Pigs may not actually fly, but they could have a role to play in keeping air travel safe.
Collisions between airplanes and larger birds, such as geese, can be a serious hazard, especially if animals are sucked into engines.
The airport has seen around 150 bird strikes in 2020, Schiphol spokeswoman Willemeike Koster told CNN on Wednesday and the pig pilot is one of many steps the airport is taking to try to reduce the number.
The pilot involved pigs foraging for food on a five-acre plot where sugar beets had recently been harvested between two runways, the airport said in a press release announcing the project in September.
The pigs were supplied by Buitengewone Varkens, a small pig breeding company that raises the animals outdoors.
Schiphol Airport approached the company and asked if the pigs could come and eat the crop scraps, which attract geese and other birds, co-owner Stan Gloudemans told CNN on Wednesday.
The first benefit is that the pigs help make the area less attractive to birds by removing a food source, Gloudemans said.
A second benefit is the fact that, as meat eaters, pigs will also try to catch geese that land in the field to rest, he added.
Although pigs cannot move fast enough to catch geese, their attempts to do so mean they act like living scarecrows and scare birds away, he said.
Gloudemans farm produces around 300 piglets per year. They are normally deployed in the Netherlands to clear weeds or crop scraps, rather than as part of aircraft safety measures, he said.
“That was the strangest question,” Gloudemans said, adding, “Next time, maybe they’ll ask me to ward off thieves or something.”
Schiphol Airport said the success of the project will be measured by analyzing bird activity in the area during the time the pigs were present, versus when they were not.
The airport already employs 20 bird monitors who work around the clock to keep birds away, using technologies such as laser beams and sound. He also plants special types of grass to make the area “as unappealing as possible to birds,” Koster said.
The six-week pilot project ended in the first week of November, Koster said, adding that it was “informative.” The data collected will be reviewed in the coming months, and a decision on longer-term use of pigs is expected early next year, she said.