Birds and high-performance jet aircraft don't mix. So at a base in Germany, the Air Force is fighting birds with birds - specifically trained falcons that patrol the base and help eliminate at least some of the feathered threat to the F-16 Fighting Falcons and other aircraft.
According to an Air Force release, Ronald Leu of the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron has been the Spangdahlem Air Base falconer, part time anyway - he also makes machine parts -- for 10 years. "These birds prey on rabbits, but more importantly, crows," Leu said. "It's important to keep airspace clear so the aircraft can fly as normal."
Leu has trained Gina, a 5-year-old falcon to hunt wildlife near the base's flightline to help in preventing aircraft damage. Other falcons are part of the patrol as well, according to the Air Force. Leu brings the birds to the base two to four times each week, the Air Force stated.
Once the falconer sees that a bird has made a successful catch, Leu said he quickly meets with it to limit how much the falcon chows on. As long as the bird is still hungry it will continue hunting in the area, the Air Force stated.
The Air Force though is no stranger to falcons as they are the symbol of the Air Force Academy and are used in demonstrations during many of the school's sporting events. In fact the Academy keeps and breeds falcons under special permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the Air Force.
At least one other air base has used falcons to help keep airspace clear. See here.
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