A Utah State University student has developed a computer program that may help U.S. Air Force pilots in Utah avoid dangerous collisions with birds, officials said.
Fisheries and wildlife graduate student Michael Machalek built the program to predict and chart areas where pilots might encounter larger bird species, which can jam a jet engine if struck.The program is being installed at Hill Air Force Base, Machalek said.
When using the program, flight programmers answer basic questions asked by the computer regarding date, time and altitude of the proposed flight. Weather conditions for the day, including wind and cloud cover, are fed into the program.
Once the needed information has been entered, a colored map of Utah displaying hazardous areas where pilots are apt to encounter birds appears on the computer screen. The map can be enlarged and printed.
Machalek said the Air Force can use the maps in pre-flight orientations to chart flight plans which avoid areas where birds may be migrating or flying to and from feeding and nesting sites.
The information displayed is particularly important to high-speed F-16 fighters flying near the lake. Pilots do not have time to see and avoid an object the size of an eagle or white pelican, Machalek said.
Since the field work is done during daylight hours, the program can only be used by daytime flyers.