Airport uses sonic blasts to scare off birds

Owen Roberts International Airport is using sonic blast cannons to scare birds away from the runway.  

The Zon Propane Cannons, which provide a pressure-regulated sonic blast to shoo away birds when planes are incoming and outgoing, are among the tools being used in the airport’s wildlife hazard management efforts.  

Prior to the cannons being deployed, airport security personnel patrolled the runway in cars, blasting their car horns, to frighten away birds. 

Motorists driving past the airport might think they are hearing a shot going off or their engine backfiring, but the frequent popping sounds are coming from the two devices behind the fences on the airport landing strip, opposite Rubis gas station and the Mango Tree restaurant. Another two of the devices are on the landing strip of the Gerrard Smith International Airport in Cayman Brac. 

Andrew McLaughlin, senior manager of safety at the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, said, “The device is deployed on the airfield whenever there is a hazard from dangerous wildlife activity in the area. It has been in use in the Cayman Islands for at least the past five years to my knowledge.”  

October marks the beginning of bird migration season for Cayman. Mr. McLaughlin noted that this year the birds started migrating early, in September, and there has been an abundance of cattle egrets, great egrets, stilts and swallows. 

He said birds sucked into plane engines can destroy or seriously harm the engine, as well as cause serious damage to the aircraft. 

Mr. McLaughlin said the airport is making plans to place signs along the airport fence to alert motorists of the use of the air cannons for wildlife management. This will be discussed at a public meeting on Monday in the airport’s second-floor conference room. 

The meeting will address measures the airport uses to deal with hazardous wildlife, as well as new measures to reduce the number of wild birds and animals, including egrets and iguanas, to the airport.  


The Zon Propane Cannons by the runway provide a pressure-regulated sonic blast to shoo away pest birds. – Photo: Jewel Levy

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