Wild animals in runway cause safety concern at local airport

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- Coyotes, geese and deer in the runway are causing major safety concerns for pilots at the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport.

Dan Danieley, executive director of the Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority, said they are common sights.

"I actually saw a flock of geese on the airport campus this morning, I witnessed a coyote maybe three days ago, and I've seen deer within the past week," he said. "They're here frequently."

Danieley said there have been several incidents of planes hitting wild animals. Fortunately there have been no serious injuries yet.

"But it can be a life-endangering event for the pilot or passenger," he said.

Construction is now underway on a wildlife fence to prevent the animals from getting onto the runway, but Danieley said that is expected to take two years to complete.

In the interim, he is asking the city council to allow trained professionals to shoot wildlife at the airport.

"There does not seem to be any other way to get a good eradication of the deer and coyotes other than shooting them," he said.

Because the airport falls in Burlington city limits, doing so would require a change in city ordinance, which would require council approval and the approval of the police chief.

In a letter to the city manager, Chief Jeffrey Smythe said he supports the shooting of animals at the airport in the interest of public safety. In the letter, he highlighted several recent incidents, including:

  • Sunday, August 7th, a goose was struck in midair. The animal fell to the tarmac and was immediately snatched by a coyote.

The city council will vote Tuesday whether or not schedule a public hearing on the proposed ordinance change.

"The Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport contributes $114 million to our community with our daily operations," Danieley said. "More than anything, it's about safety of the people flying. Lives are important."