5-pound water bird considered ‘extremely high threat’ to passengers at Norfolk airport

Posted at 9:29 PM, Feb 06, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-07 09:10:03-05

Norfolk, Va. - About three times a month, airliners loaded with passengers smash into birds at Norfolk International Airport.

The number of these dangerous collisions is growing. Experts crafted plans to make the airport safer, but investigator Mike Mather found out many of those plans are not being followed. That is, until NewsChannel 3 started asking questions.

A bird called the double-crested cormorant has been blamed for damaging collisions at the Norfolk airport and others.

The government calls the five-pound water bird an "extremely high threat" to the safety of airline passengers at Norfolk International Airport, and records show the population of these water birds at the airport is growing.

“Do you believe the airport is doing everything it can to keep the flying public safe?” asked NewsChannel 3’s Mike Mather.

“I feel like we`re doing everything we can reasonably. And I think 'reasonable' has to be in that definition,” says Steven Sterling with the Norfolk International Airport.

FAA documents reveal the number of bird strikes is also rising here. For three years, wildlife experts have urged officials to take specific steps to make passengers safer, to keep birds like this away from the runway.

“Mike, our argument from the first day was that the airport wasn`t doing its job, isn`t doing its job,” says Carol Senechal from Eagle On Alliance.

But the documents obtained by NewsChannel 3 show the airport has not embraced the experts' advice.

“You`re saying the airport is not following them to the letter,” asked Mather.

“We intend to,” says Sterling.

But because NewsChannel 3 started asking questions, that could be changing.

This investigation airs Tuesday at 5pm on NewsChannel 3.