Airport depends on air cannon to scare away birds

| 03/11/2014

(CNS): With an early start to the migration season and an abundance of feathered visitors this year, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) is firing its air cannon more frequently than usual to prevent wildlife strikes to aircraft. This year has been very busy, with an abundance of cattle egrets, great egrets, stilts and swallows in the area around Owen Roberts International Airport. The Zon Gun Propane Cannon better known as the “air cannon” is a commonly used piece of equipment that keeps birds away without harming them or interfering with air traffic but officials said that people are complaining about the noise.

The blasts are generated by propane gas that causes a popping noise that scares the birds away.

At recent working group meeting about the problem of birds around the airport CIAA’s senior manager for safety management systems Andrew McLaughlin said  the authority was doing all it could to keep wildlife, from interfering with operations and keep a safe operating environment at the Airport.

“Wildlife strikes can not only be catastrophic, but they also cost the airport industry billions of dollars in damages each year, therefore it’s a major concern for the CIAA.” 

Due to the increase in wildlife, CIAA has extended the hours of deployment of the air cannon, which has caused some complaints from the public.  “While we apologize for the inconvenience, the air cannon serves a higher purpose in maintaining the safety of aircraft operations.”

CIAA also plans on posting signs along the airport fence to alert motorists about the use of the air cannons for wildlife management. The goal is to ensure all passing motorists and residents in the area are made aware of the cannons so they won’t be alarmed by the sound.

CIAA is also encouraging the public to do its part to help prevent wildlife strikes by informing airport staff about wildlife, covering trash cans, picking up garbage and not feeding the birds in the areas surrounding the airport.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I live in Ryan Road  near the Airport fence 47 years I LOVE IT WOULD NOT CHANGE IT FOR A ROOM AT RITZ and the planes are no hurt or bother to me only when they are working on one and have to be reving the engine which is not often …But the sound of that annoying cannon bang bang bang is annoying the crap out of us and not doing one darn thing to the birds…I wish whoever bright idea it was would take the cannon home for a night and put it outside there window…

  2. 4Cayman says:

    The ponds are there for run off of water when it rains. Without the ponds, the run way would flood and planes cannot land. Imagine having to stay over on Cayman Brac as an alternative? I say keep the cannons and get rid of the shotguns!

  3. UHUHUH says:

    Here of late there have been so many depressing stories, I thought that readers of this site would appreciate the following story which has to do with the subject at hand. "Air Travel" and some of the strange things that happen on these flights! PLEASE ENJOY.

    While human beings can apparently urinate in the aisle of a passenger jet without the plane needing to make a pit stop, and it’s fine and dandy to fly a plane full of people sick with the norovirus to their destination, a little dog poop on a US Airways flight is cause to bring a transcontinental flight to a screeching halt and bring in a clean-up crew.

    This is what happened earlier this week aboard the US Air flight from L.A. to Philadelphia, when a dog in the cabin just couldn’t wait a few more hours to go for a W-A-L-K. The canine was apparentlybrought into the cabin as a service animal for one of the passengers on the flight, but lost control of his bowels.


    It didn’t help that passengers (and the dog) sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours before they even took off. “About an hour into the flight, I started smelling this terrible smell,” one passenger tells Inside Edition. “I look up the aisle way and there’s a dog pooping right in the middle of the aisle. It’s a big dog, three or four feet tall or long, and he was just going!” He says that the smell was so bad that some people were dry heaving and others actually vomited. And it got worse when the dog let loose for a second round of poo. The passenger says that the cabin crew ran out of paper towels, at which point the pilot announced they would be making an unscheduled pit stop.


    So the plane landed in Kansas City, where a cleaning crew boarded and took care of the toxic dump.

    The passenger says the dog’s owner was very apologetic and offered to send Starbucks gift cards to everyone.



  4. Anonymous says:

    OH. I heard the noise, but I thought it was Arden vs. Alden on Rooster

  5. Soldier Crab says:

    Those complaining about the cannon's noise better be careful they don't get the alternative – 12 gauge shotgun pellets zipping by their clothes lines and through their windows.

  6. Anonymous says:

    As a resident who is affected by the noise generated from these gas cannons, I can tell you they are not just "minor popping noises".  The acoustics of the cannons travel for a few miles and are extremely loud…we live on Fairbanks Road and can hear the cannons as loudly and as clearly as if they were in our neighbor's back yard. The occasional noise of airplanes taking off and landing is far more tolerable than the constant discharge of the gas cannons. We no longer have quite enjoyment of our homes or gardens, so this is a real noise issue for thos residents who live around the airport. I am certain that none of the residents are complaining just for the sake of complaining, nor are we dismissing the very serious reason behind the placement of the cannons, which is to avoid birds and other wildlife striking a plane, but there surely must be some better solution?  As one poster suggests, perhaps filling in the ponds at the end of the runway would be a good start, that would at least deter any wildlife from settling there? 

  7. Anonymous says:

    TIme for a new approach- Flame throwers!! Instant roast duck every day to be sold to people passing by and help fill in the budget gap at the same time. I really should be premier.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The cannon has been in the same pllce for days, and has NO EFFECT!  I heard it go several times as a I drove around the airport, and ALL the birds at the pond areas under the flight path were sat aorund the water oblivious wih no reaction.  Either it doesn't work, or it needs to be located where the birds are and not at the Mango Tree.  Is anyone watching it from the arport?

  9. Anony-me says:

    In reply to the 'isn't the jet noise worse than the air cannon pop' questions. The jet noise is a building roar you hear coming and going. The cannon is a surprise 'bang'. As another poster said, it catches you by surprise. As its supposed to. I live in apartments past the cricket pitch from the airport, so some distance and two roads away and I can hear the cannon. So its not a 'mild' noise. Its not supposed to be. While the jets are louder in decibles its a reaction question. You grow used to the jets and your mind subconciously recognises the approaching low roar and then tunesit out despite it getting louder and louder. But the cannon gets you by surprise.


    However, given the alternatives, I'd rather have the air cannon and have the ponds with their resident birds than the airport have to take more 'drastic' measures to remove the threat from the migratory birds.

  10. Kadafe says:

    You want the airport to fill the ponds? Don't you realize that then some will want to take them to court for taking away a scienic part of their drive home that they have been used to all their lives? 🙂 

  11. Anonymous says:

    The best idea is to put the airport to the East. The center of the island is eventually where it will go. Its the only sensible place for it to go. Every city that has progressed has the center in the center. Our center is the central mangrove close to frank sound road. Then let it feed the four districts. Better for traffic . Then the airport couldbe turned into a private airport. It won't need any more land.

    Besides building a new airport could be built in a quarter of the time and a lot less money. Land to the East is cheap 20,000 dollars for an acre..

    One has to remember that the cost of living is high due to cost of rent or land prices also. Check how much 500 sq ft. for a small shop in GT. ?

    • Anonymous says:

      How would u feel if you had to drive from Westbay to East End to catch a 7:30am Friday flight? If common sense was more common, I still don't think you would have any. 

  12. Earshot says:

    Only an idiot would complain about the minor popping noise made by these devices. I assume they also complain about the jet engines in the area………

    • Stand up for your rights says:

      How about you look into the facts before calling a large group of people idiots? Neighbourhoods in that area have been established for many, many years.  Believe me – all of us are used to the noise of airplanes. BUT.  Take into consideration that large planes only tend to land once every 30 mins – 1 hour.  This damn thing goes off every thirty seconds, and sounds like a cannon in your backyard!  Not even mango tree can drown it out!  How about you come spend the week with us, instead of making judgement calls, moran.

      • Anonymous says:

        I live in Smith Road Villas and have yet to hear this massive bang you are crying about, it can't be that bad.

        Just like the airplanes flying overhead, we will all be used to the noise by Christmas.

  13. Dr. Do - Little - Too -Late says:

    Perhaps it's time that Government make and enact laws that restrict developers from destroying  natural ponds and lakes, this then would solve the problem at the airport. These birds are water-fowl and they naturally seek places where there are bodies of water such as ponds! They  go to these places where they can forage in the shallows for food. The reason they are coming to the airport is because there are ponds at the western end of the runway. 

    These birds don't know that they are endangering them selves and the flying public they just know there is a body of water there.


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes 21.02, thats it, enact the law and arrest the birds!! Great idea, love it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    "residents complaining about the noise" ?

    So the cannon makes more noise than Cayman Airways jet taking off ?  What baloney.  The residents need to get a life.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Would it not be prudent to fill in the ponds at the end of the runway, surely these type of birds love that sort of environment?

  16. Anonymous says:

    I've watched as the cannon has gone off multiple times with no effect on the birds, they just sit there a itgoest off. I think they're used to it by now as its going off repeatedly all day long!

    • Anonymous says:

      Those are the 'resident' birds. They're probably not bothered by jets either. What you worry about are the migrating birds who fly in and then fly up when an airplane approaches. The migratory ones also get scared by the air cannon.

  17. WHAT !!!!!! says:

    I think this is a total waste of gas time and money..I cross there all the time and smile as the birds dont blink and eye at the noise…Why not try shooting tennis balls or golf balls at them..Or have someone sit there by the gun loading a handful of gravel rocks in it..Pay me to walk about there and pelt after them all day…Please remove the darn noise maker as it is more ANNOYING too ALL of us who live near the airport..Trust me I have been planning to complain to CIAA about it…..

  18. Anonymous says:

    i pass the airport everyday on my way to and from work and this thing scares me every single time, i always think its my tire blowing out, someone getting shot or my head exploding from my wife's constant nagging…

  19. Anonymous says:

    Can the police use real cannon to scare away crooks? Or better still stick them all on a ship and sink the damn thing?

  20. Anonymous says:

    Can we also get a cannon of sorts to scare away West Bayers from the polling stations in the next elections?

  21. Anonymous says:

    I'd rather the noise form the air canon that the noise from a crashing plane.  For God's  sake stop complaining about everything.!!

  22. Knot S Smart says:

    I have a novel idea…

    Why dont they just fill up the ponds at the end of the runway that attracts the waterbirds to the area?

    Wait… They will need a study done by a professional first…

    Then have a committee examine the report…

    Then the animal rights people will have to determine whether this violates the human rights of the birds…