On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways flight 1549 originating from New York City's LaGuardia Airport had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River after hitting a flock of geese near the George Washington Bridge. The flock killed both engines, which forced pilot Chesley Sullenberger to ditch the plane on the nearby river.
Now, aviation experts are concerned about the gun control debate that's taking place in New York State, something they say will negatively impact airports ability to prevent such tragedies from occurring.
Assembly Bill 8646C prevents hunters from shooting deer with rifles in Long Island and Westchester Counties. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) would no longer have the ability to provide waivers to airports for wildlife management efforts. Airport personnel would be left with shotguns — a less effective tool — as its only means of removing deer.
"...the Assembly bill would not permit the use of a firearm within 500 feet of a residence or occupied structure, possessing a loaded firearm in a vehicle and shooting from the side of a road—all important techniques for effective deer, fox, coyote and bird control at airports," the New York Aviation Management Association (NYAMA) said in a statement.
According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), 112,815 reported bird and wildlife strikes have taken place in the last 20 years. The actual number may be more than 500,000 if unreported strikes are taken into account. In its Pilot Safety and Technique Resource, the AOPA estimates that the aviation industry spends nearly $330 million and suffers 500,000 hours of down time each year from strikes.
“Airports need tools to protect the flying public from nuisance wildlife, and New York State no longer provides the tools," AOPA Eastern Regional Manager, Sean Collins, said in a news alert.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), what's happening in New York State is one example of how hunting is used in a positive manner for conservation.
"We know hunters play a vital role in wildlife management and conservation. We should be examining ways to increase the cooperative effort between our hunting community and wildlife management officials to remove barriers to hunting. The excise taxes that are generated by the purchase of firearms and ammunition, as well as fees for hunting licenses, permits, stamps and tags, are funds that are invested in maintaining healthy and sustainable wild animal populations," NSSF's Public Affairs Manager, Mark Oliva, told Townhall. "We have seen the adverse effects of deer populations when hunters are excluded as an answer to management. Overpopulation, disease, vegetation damage by over-browsing and increased collisions between deer and autos are the results. Similar results by eliminating hunters from managing wild game birds near airports could be expected and would devastating."
Both the AOPA and the NYAMA are supporting Senate Bill S6853A which gives the DEC the ability to provide exemptions to the law, like what was previously in place for the aviation industry.