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Wildlife hazard assessment underway at Malmstrom Air Force Base

Dr. Roberta Anderson, 341st CES natural resources program manager
Posted at 5:47 PM, Oct 31, 2022

The 341st Civil Engineer Squadron environmental section at Malmstrom Air Force is currently conducting a year-long wildlife hazard assessment - a survey of potential wildlife hazards on base that could affect the helicopter flying mission at Malmstrom - which could include deer, small mammals such as foxes and coyotes, or the most common animals affecting aircraft incidents – birds.

According to Dr. Roberta Anderson, 341st CES natural resources program manager, thousands of aircraft incidents across the country each year are caused by birds.

“A lot of our helicopter flights happen at night and the base is located in a major migration pathway for birds,” said Anderson. “Great Falls is located in the Midwest flyway where birds follow the Missouri River down from the north; and fall will present a much bigger risk for an aircraft incident.”

The survey involves documenting the types of bird species as well as other wildlife at numerous locations on the base, which is used to help bolster Malmstrom’s Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard plan. The BASH plan assists the 40th Helicopter Squadron by providing them data and tools to avoid possible wildlife hazards they may encounter while supporting the Malmstrom nuclear deterrence mission.

Dr. Roberta Anderson, 341st CES natural resources program manager
Dr. Roberta Anderson, 341st CES natural resources program manager

The environmental team also deploys infrared cameras and sound monitoring equipment around the installation to gather precise data on the wildlife that may affect the flying mission.

“We have 13 species of bats that reside on Malmstrom and although they are small, a flock of bats can be problematic for an aircraft,” said Anderson.

Nick Karranza, 341st Missile Wing airfield manager, works closely with the CES environmental and entomology offices for key wildlife data points to allow the wing to plan for the most appropriate countermeasures against intrusive wildlife near the flightline.

“With the help of Dr. Anderson’s findings, the Wing can better utilize tools to keep the pilots safe,” said Karranza. “We lean on the environmental flight heavily for this data, but airfield management also works closely with wing safety and other safety agencies to develop the most accurate safety plans for our aircrew.”