North Carolina

Thousands of birds descend on runway at NC airport, bringing air traffic to a halt

Flights had to be delayed hours Friday morning at the Asheville Regional Airport in western North Carolina, after thousands of birds took over the airfield.
Flights had to be delayed hours Friday morning at the Asheville Regional Airport in western North Carolina, after thousands of birds took over the airfield. AP

Air traffic was brought to a stand still Friday morning at Asheville Regional Airport in western North Carolina, after thousands of birds took over the airfield.

Runways were closed for “several hours,” causing some flights to be delayed as much as six hours, WLOS reported.

Airport officials acknowledged the flight hazard just before 11 a.m. in a tweet, but did not reveal what type of bird was involved in the take over.

“Confirming that thousands of birds landed on the airfield this morning,” the airport tweeted.

“Airport ops working diligently to disperse the flocks. Passengers should stay in touch with their airlines for changes to flight schedules, as some flights are delayed,” officials said in the tweet.

The tweet was followed about 20 minutes later with a message saying staff had cleared the birds, at least temporarily.

“The thousands of birds that landed on the airfield have been successfully dispersed,” a tweet said. “Airport ops crews will maintain a presence on the airfield throughout the day to insure the situation is resolved.”

The birds were identified as starlings by Asheville Citizen-Times, which reported the airport’s staff resorted to frightening the birds away with “sirens, fire trucks with water cannons, air cannons and pyrotechnic noise makers.”

Many passengers took to social media to complain about circling the airport or having their flights diverted.

“Asheville Airport is a joke!!” posted Kasey and Josh Gallion on Facebook. “We made it to Asheville and got transferred to Lexington Ky after going in circles in the air for 40 min cause BIRDS were on the runway.”

“So we are sitting in the Asheville airport, which has been shut down due to bird strikes,” said Mary Pelley on Facebook. “There are 1000’s if birds that won’t leave the area. They are spraying water, running sirens, shooting guns and are getting the dogs out to see if they can get them to leave! It actually funny to watch.”

News of the disturbance comes just a week after hundreds of birds slammed into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte.

Those birds were identified as migrating chimney swifts and a third of them died after crashing into the building’s plate glass windows.

Experts have yet to determine what caused the birds to fly into the Charlotte’s museum’s facade for more than an hour.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, the LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.
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