The Sunday News
Rutendo Nyeve, Business Correspondent
THE Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe Director General, Dr Eng Elijah Chingosho, has allayed fears of any threat posed by the ongoing Victoria Falls World Challenge Pigeon Race to flights in the city.
Dr Chingosho said the birds were flying at low altitudes hence they do not pose a threat to flights. He further said engagements had been done with one of the helicopter companies in Victoria Falls.
“There are people that breed and train pigeons for racing all over the world including in Zimbabwe. The pigeons when released from anywhere typically fly back to their home. In Zimbabwe, a couple of thousand birds from several countries worldwide register for the Victoria Falls World Challenge Pigeon Race. The owner of a bird that reaches the destination first wins the competition. The competitions entail releasing the birds from say Lupane or anywhere else.
“These birds, when reaching destination, fly very low such that they are unlikely to collide with fixed wing aircraft. The aircraft that are most likely to be affected are those from Zambezi helicopters because they land close to their helipad. The owners of the birds have however, reached an agreement with Zambezi helicopters for coordination purposes to minimise chances of any collusions,” said Dr Chingosho.
Dr Chingosho was responding to concerns that pigeon birds were passing through the special flight rules area and landing near one of the helicopter company’s helipad in the resort city. The Victoria Falls world challenge pigeon race is a young bird one loft race held in Africa with the birds landing at the Victoria Falls resort. The aviation industry is one of the sectors of the tourism industry in the city for both transport and tour operating purposes.
Industry players had said the intensification of the world challenge pigeon race during the Covid-19 induced lockdown period has put the aviation industry at high risks of bird strikes. A bird strike, bird ingestion (for an engine), bird hit, or bird aircraft strike hazard (BASH) is a collision between an airborne animal (usually a bird or bat) and a moving vehicle, usually an aircraft. Bird strikes happen most often during takeoff or landing, or during low altitude flight.
Over the past two decades, bird strikes were related to more than 106 civilian deaths worldwide, according to British and Canadian researchers. An aviation expert who spoke to Sunday News on condition of anonymity said:
“These flight pigeon competitions pose a huge threat to the aviation industry in Victoria Falls. What is worrying is that the huge number of birds of up to 6 000 fly through the special rules area for both Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is even more worrying for one of the leading helicopter company’s helipad which is near the landing area of these birds. These birds can cause bird strikes and these are very dangerous especially for the helicopters. My suggestion will be for the organisers to consider changing the routes,” he said
Experts say, as birds fly at lower altitudes, most frequently plane collisions with them occur during a takeoff, initial ascent approach, or landing. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, 90 percent of bird strike incidents happen around airports. This year’s edition of the Victoria Falls World Challenge Pigeon Race will end on 31 July 2022.