Venice Airport, known for its serene beauty, is not quite so tranquil when it comes to its resident seagulls. These feathered felons are notorious for their audacious food thefts, swiping sandwiches, breaking crockery, and even nipping at fingers. Their antics have now taken a more disruptive turn, causing an hour-long shutdown and two hours of chaos at Venice’s airport.
The Seagull Standoff
Venice Marco Polo Airport, the fifth busiest in Italy and the largest in the north of the country, encountered a unique problem as a flock of seagulls congregated at the end of the runway. Flights were grounded between 9.54 a.m. and 10.45 a.m., forcing 20 incoming flights to be diverted to other northern Italian airports, including Treviso, Verona, Trieste, and Milan.
While reaching Treviso, just a 30-minute bus ride away, was relatively convenient for some passengers, those diverted to Trieste and Milan faced significantly longer journeys to reach Venice, lasting two to three hours.
To disperse the 200 or so pesky gulls, Venice airport employs a resident falcon, expertly managed by a falconer. In addition to avian assistance, the airport used “fauna-friendly acoustic deterrents” to encourage the gulls to vacate the premises.
Safety in the Skies
Such bird intrusions, aptly known as “bird strikes,” can lead to engine failures and even catastrophic crashes. Historic aviation incidents involving bird strikes include the fatal crashes of Eastern Air Lines flight 375 in 1960 and Ethiopian Airlines flight 604 in 1988. Bird strikes can pose serious safety risks, which is why airports take such incidents seriously.
Airlines’ Avian Encounters
Even major airlines like Ryanair, known for its strong safety record, have had their share of bird-related incidents. A flight from Frankfurt to Rome in 2008 hit a flock of starlings on approach, leading to both engines stalling. The aircraft landed safely, but several passengers and crew members were hospitalized, and the plane was written off.
Miracle on the Hudson
Perhaps the most famous bird strike incident was the 2009 “miracle on the Hudson,” involving US Airways flight 1549. During takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, the plane struck a flock of Canada geese. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his crew executed an emergency landing on the Hudson River, saving all 155 passengers and crew on board.
Bird strikes remain a significant concern for airport authorities, underscoring the importance of measures like falconry to ensure passenger safety and prevent avian-induced disruptions.
The seagull incident at Venice airport serves as a vivid reminder that even amidst its tranquil waters and stunning architecture, the unpredictable nature of nature itself can disrupt the best-laid travel plans.