Can Hungry Pigs Make Air Travel Safer?

Foraging pigs are at the center of a recently concluded pilot project in Amsterdam.

I've been a nervous flyer since 2016, when I saw Sully. The movie stars Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the real-life pilot who was forced to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after a flock of geese flew into his plane's engine. This is known as a bird strike, and it's an extremely real thing that can happen. Now, one Amsterdam airport is employing an unusual tactic to prevent bird strikes: surrounding the airport grounds with hungry pigs.

CNN reports that Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport has employed 20 pigs as part of a pilot project (plane joke!) to reduce the number of bird strikes near the airport. Per CNN, the airport saw around 150 bird strikes in 2020, which is far too many. Far, far too many.

Here's how the pig thing works: the pigs are assigned to forage on a five-acre plot between two runways. This particular plot is home to sugar beet plants which, after the harvest, leave behind some tasty beet remnants. Those leftovers tend to attract geese and other birds. Those birds then fly into airplane engines like a bunch of jackasses, creating treacherous conditions for all aboard the plane.

But when a gaggle of hungry piggies claim the leftovers, the area becomes less attractive to birds. Fewer birds, fewer bird strikes, lots of snacks for hard-working pigs. Everyone wins. CNN adds that the pigs, which are meat eaters, have also been known to try to catch birds that land in the five-acre plot. Scary pigs, fewer birds. You with me?

The pilot project ended in the first week of November, with airport representatives calling it "informative." Now, airport officials will consider using pigs for longer-term bird strike prevention.

Me, I'm all for it. I'm in favor of anything that'll make flying a less terrifying experience—especially if it involves snacks for pigs.

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