A British Airways aircraft has been grounded in St. Lucia as a result of a bird strike, while a Virgin Atlantic aircraft was grounded due to mechanical problems it was experiencing.
A source told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) today (October 27) that the British Airways aircraft landed at the Hewanorra International Airport in Vieux Fort on Monday at around 6:30 p.m.
The plane was expected to depart Saint Lucia a few hours later for Grenada, but was unable to do so, because it was experiencing mechanical problems after coming into contact with birds.
The aircraft which accommodates approximately 250 passengers had to overnight in Saint Lucia and is still awaiting clearance to leave Hewanorra Airport.
The source told SNO that the airport encountered some challenges in trying to acquire hotel accommodation for its passengers, because most hotels were filled due to the other aircraft being grounded as well.
Nevertheless, the airport staff assisted and the passengers were provided with hotel accommodation for the night.
Meanwhile, the second aircraft arrived in Saint Lucia around 3:30 p.m. Monday and was experiencing some mechanical problems. Passengers for that aircraft had to overnight in Saint Lucia also.
SNO understands that the matter concerning the birds on the airfield was brought to the attention of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority (SLASPA) and was discussed at lengths at previous meetings.
It was noted during those meetings that the influx of birds on the airfield was a direct result of global warming, as a majority of the birds spotted in the area are not species found in Saint Lucia.
It has been reported that any collision with birds can damage an aircraft’s body. Birds can enter the engines and destroy equipment if the aircraft is flying at a high speed.
Certain airports have taken measures to keep birds away by using guns to shoot them or trapping them. But this poses a huge problem, especially with conservation groups.
General Manager of SLASPA Keigan Cox told SNO that while it still poses a challenge, the issue has been minimized due to certain interventions taken by his office.
He said SLASPA has consulted with local agencies to look at this issue and has even moved to purchase equipment to scare away the birds, among other things.
Cox asserted that the issue is being handled efficiently and said SLASPA will continue to try different methods, to ensure that safety is maintained at the airport.