Airports across the United States are required to manage the quantity and quality of stormwater on-site while safeguarding aircraft operations. However, many stormwater management options, such as stormwater detention ponds, can attract a diversity of birds creating potential aviation wildlife hazards. In addition, airports are often faced with conflicting federal, state, and local stormwater and wildlife management regulations and guidance. Given these vital issues, research was needed to develop a user-friendly tool to assist airports in making decisions that balance both stormwater and wildlife hazard management.
In 2012, Gresham Smith—as part of a team led by Environmental Resource Solutions (ERS)—was awarded a contract from the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) to develop a bird strike risk analysis and stormwater management decision tool that would enable airports to methodically and critically assess their wildlife hazard risk against existing and proposed stormwater management facilities.
Identifying the “What-Ifs”
The ACRP is an FAA-funded, applied-research program that develops near-term, practical solutions to problems faced by airport operators. During its annual solicitation of research needs for airports, the ACRP identified a desire to better understand how airports should deal with wildlife when developing stormwater management facilities.
We approached Environmental Resource Solutions to partner on a response to the problem statement by pairing ERS’s expertise on wildlife hazards to aircraft with our stormwater management skills. Together we identified several key objectives for the project. The first step was to review bird hazard management and stormwater management regulations and provide guidance documents and relevant research noting any ambiguities or potential conflicts. Next, we identified airport stormwater management options and assessed their potential effect on wildlife behavior, specifically waterfowl. Using this analysis, the team developed a matrix for the likelihood and severity of bird strikes across a variety of stormwater design scenarios and built a draft tool using aviation safety management systems (SMS) framework. We then conducted two airport case studies to obtain input from initial users and to learn how the tool performed at airports of different sizes and activity levels and with differing amounts of available data.
Based on extensive research, user input and direction from the ACRP project panel, our team developed a final bird strike risk analysis and stormwater management decision tool. The proactive tool allows users to review the bird strike risk associated with an existing or planned BMP and identify ways to reduce risk via alternative BMP design characteristics or bird strike mitigation measures.
Developing an Easy-to-Use, Accessible Tool
Since ACRP does not support web-based tools, the tool needed to be in a downloadable format that users could install on their computers or open with software that would be available to any airport user. We chose to design the tool in Microsoft Excel to allow users to enter information—such as FAA strike data and stormwater design criteria—into an Excel spreadsheet. While this solution presented some challenges in developing the logic behind the tool, the research team utilized the unique attributes of Excel to make the tool more user friendly.
Designed on various tabs in the Excel spreadsheet, the tool allows users to enter different categories of data—for example, bird data and stormwater BMP data—on separate tabs for clarity. This serves to simplify the inputs, and helps users understand the flow of the tool. Each tab includes “hot buttons” that facilitate navigation through the tool by allowing users to go from one step to the next, access relevant additional resources, and go back to the main menu. Drop-down lists simplify the selection of tool inputs, while risk analysis steps are numbered and color-coded for additional clarity.
The Excel-based tool was also introduced to stakeholders through outreach materials, webinars and presentations designed for airport personnel, wildlife regulators, stormwater regulators, and the general public at aviation-associated conferences and committee meetings.