Edmonton International Airport has many stories to tell but most aren’t readily apparent to the average user boarding aircraft at its gates or awaiting luggage at its carousels. Some are stories about man-made marvels that manage baggage or the million of passengers that pass through its doors every year but this story is about the role nature plays at Canada’s fifth busiest airport.
After it became apparent in 1955 that the propeller age of air travel was passing and that the bigger jet airliners required longer runways than Edmonton’s original city center airfield could accommodate 7,600 acres or rural farmland near Leduc was purchased by Transport Canada for $1,469,000 and plans begun for a new airport which would eventually open 5-years later. By an informal and unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” the original landowners were allowed to lease back and continue to farm unused tracts of land which some still do as Edmonton International Airport remains Canada’s largest airport in area with more than half of its land still under cultivation.
It’s this farmland and natural areas that attracts wildlife including birds which puts them on a collision course with aircraft creating the potential for a catastrophic air crash. Edmonton International Airport staff have employed a number of scare tactics to alter birds entry into airport airspace but in 2017 became one of the first airports in the world to add a new and all-natural tool to its arsenal: robotic birds.