Deer prompt more airport safety concerns

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2000

Managing Editor

Feb. 8, 2001 10 PM

Two times in as many months, aircrafts have collided with deer at Troy’s airport sparking increased safety concerns for Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford.

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Last week, another private jet collided with deer at the Troy airport on the runway, less than a month after a jet owned by Dallas Cowboys organization owner Jerry Jones hit two deer causing a major crash and substantial injuries to both the pilot and co-pilot. In the recent crash, no injuries were reported, but Lunsford said there was "substantial damage" to the aircraft.

"We are obviously very concerned with these recent accidents," said Lunsford. "There have been other incidents where deer have been run off the runway as pilots were taking off. We have a real problem on our hands."

There’s no simple solution, but Lunsford is once again calling on state and federal agencies to assist in funding fencing around the airport.

"There’s no easy way to correct this problem," Lunsford said. "But fences are one way we believe these animals can be controlled to an extent."

In the wake of the problems, Lunsford said the city has been authorized by the Alabama Department of Conservation to harvest deer on airport property.

"This is not something we want to do," Lunsford said. "But we have received authorization for two of our police officers to harvest deer on airport property in order to control the population. This came through about a week ago and we have already harvested five deer."

Lunsford said the recent problems remove any doubt in his mind what is needed at the airport.

"If we are going to be able to ensure the safety of the people taking off and landing at our airport, we are going to have to do something about the deer," he said. "Right now, fencing is the most effective and economical thing we can think of."

Lunsford said federal and state aeronautics agencies are working with the city and have made the fencing issue "a top priority."

"We have been encouraged by the support we have had thus far," he said.

That support has led Lunsford and the city to hire an airport consultant who will research the problems at the airport and who is expected to make recommendations on the type of fencing necessary to control deer’s access to the airport property.

"There are a lot of regulations as to what can and can’t be done in these situations," Lunsford said. "We are going to have to devise a plan and submit it to the agencies involved in order to make it a success and that’s why we’re using the consultant."

Lunsford hopes that once the plan is put into action that the consultant will be able to assist the city in finding outside revenue sources for funding the airport projects.

"This is going to be very expensive and our plan will not only have to be approved, it will have to be funded," he said.

In the meantime, Lunsford said he is hopeful that the airport will remain accident-free.

"It’s a huge source of concern when some of our larger businesses and industries are flying people to and from the airport," he said. "There’s always a concern that something could go wrong and we’re terrified that a tragedy like the one we saw in January could occur again."