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Airport Looks to Prairie Grass to Prevent Deadly Bird Strikes

One Ohio airport is now experimenting with a new, gentler way to avoid bird strikes: planting tall prairie grass. Heavy birds like geese — which cause the most damage to planes — are believed to avoid long grasses because they fear predators might be hiding within. So officials at Dayton International Airport are converting up to 300 acres of the airfield's 2,200 non-aeronautical acres into prairie grass.

There are more than 10,000 airplane bird strikes a year in the U.S. Most do little or no damage to the plane. The most frequent problem is damage to the engines, which the FAA estimates costs the industry $950 million a year. Globally, wildlife strikes have killed more than 250 people and destroyed over 229 aircraft since 1988, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Between 2001 and 2013, there were 218 wildlife strikes at Dayton, mostly doves, pigeons, sparrows and other small birds that didn't cause severe damage. "We operate airports in a smaller and smaller environment," says Terrence G. Slaybaugh, director of Dayton's airport. "If we are going to protect the long term use of airports in an increasingly populated area we need to be less intrusive and find ways to contribute in a positive way to our surroundings."

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— The Associated Press