Menace in the Skies

Bird strike data points toward looming disaster

Make no mistake: America is at war.

With birds.

Since the days of the Wright brothers, millions of feathered pests have selfishly chosen to end their brief, dull lives in a losing battle with a plane engine. The last and most spectacular incident -- the mid-January goose collision that brought down a commercial jetliner in the Hudson River -- very nearly cost 155 people their lives. We have ignored the winged menace for too long, and in simply hoping they'd go away, we only made them stronger.

Consider: between 1990 and 2008, planes reported 112,000 collisions with wildlife. This includes not only birds, but "foxes, rabbits, prairie dogs, domestic dogs, bats, muskrats, moose and even turtles."

You have to stoop pretty low to get the good and kind-hearted turtle involved in your anarchist plots.

From Denver to Houston, from Memphis to Newark, flocks of violently crazed birds have made a sort of sport out of interfering with the safe takeoff and landing of aircraft. You'd think the authorities might intervene, but you'd be wrong; our own Federal Aviation Administration -- ostensibly an advocate for humans, and airplanes -- instead spends much of its time covering over the birds' dastardly schemes.

The FAA has historically refused to release air collision statistics segmented into collisions per airport, because they said it could have a chilling effect on the reporting of those incidents. No airport wants to look unsafe, after all, particularly if it actually is unsafe. But brave Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the FAA to go stuff it and ordered all sorts of statistics released.

That's when we learned the full extent of the horror, and the secret bird-scourge that threatens our nation's airplanes. Not surprisingly, President Obama has been silent on this topic since the incendiary statistics were released. What is he hiding?

Cultural ornithologist Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.

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