"We have not eaten a chiripa vulture." This was the message sent last Wednesday to the control tower of the Loiu airport (Bizkaia) by the pilot of an Air Nostrum CRJ200 airplane, with capacity for 50 people, while performing the approach maneuver. There was no impact with the bird and the landing was normal, but the crew saw their safety and the passenger's safety at risk. This has been the last mishap caused by these great gliders in La Paloma, a specimen increasingly present in their air domain. A committee of experts, formed by specialists in aviation, aviation security, wildlife management and ornithologists, analyzes the problem and tries to find effective measures against a phenomenon that is increasing: the collision of vultures with planes in the Txorierri valley (land of birds, in Basque).
At the Bilbao airport, 49,966 movements were recorded last year. "Every year we buy 50,000 lottery tickets so that we have a tragedy," says Iker Eguzkizaga, operations worker and member of the works council. In 2018 there were two episodes much more serious than this week.
In May, an Airbus 320 swallowed a vulture and several parts of the turbine fell on some terraced houses in Zamudio. Three months later another boeing device hit Getxo with another vulture that burned one of the engines and forced the pilot to activate the auto-extinguisher and return urgently to the track. Both trips had to stay a week standing until they repaired the engines that were "completely destroyed", says Eguzkizaga. "The presence of birds that interfere with aviation in Loiu, both on the runway and on takeoffs and landings, is increasing and it is urgent to find solutions," says EH Bildu senator Jon Iñarritu, who has questioned the Government on numerous occasions on this matter. .
Vulture sightings in the Loiu area sometimes reach flocks of 20 specimens. Birds that can reach a wingspan of 2.6 meters between wings are crossed when the plane is practicing the most critical operations of the flight, that is, its exit or entry on the track. According to data provided by the Ministry of Development, between May 2017 and May 2018 there were almost a hundred sightings, with 355 specimens flying over the aerodrome. In 2017, 53 vultures were spotted (no complete data for 2018), compared to 42 for one year before and 11 for 2015. In 2010, for example, none were recorded.
Pedro Saura, Secretary of State for Infrastructure, has assured the Senate that the two episodes lived last year in Loiu they were "incidents of special relevance", although none of these forced the activation of the emergency plan.
"The cases of impacts with vultures they are increasing and that is very scary, "says the pilot Fernando Gorostarzu.The Official Association of Civil Aviation Pilots (Copac) has already warned of the risk at this aerodrome. AENA defends the risk management system associated with the existing fauna in La Paloma, where about 30 hawks fly over to try to scare away the birds that invade the flight zones.
The working group is preparing a "list of activities that can represent a focus of attraction for different birds", according to the ministry confrimado to the municipalities of the area. The presence in the environment of uncontrolled landfills and livestock farms could be one of the factors that explain the proliferation of scavengers.
Iñarritu has raised to the Government the possibility of installing in Loiu radars that detect these birds, as they have done the airports of Amsterdam and Istanbul and recommends the Federal Aviation Agency of the United States to avoid air accidents. The spatial scope of these instruments "is limited", suffers from "lack of precision in the objectives" and their results "are limited", Saura settled in a parliamentary response.
The consistories of the Txorierri (Derio, Larrabetzu, Lezama, Loiu, Sondika and Zamudio) claim to have them to solventra a problem that affects 20,000 inhabitants as a whole, especially now, with the arrival of spring, can go up the presence of vultures.