SAN JOSE -- The holidays are hard on birds, at least those with plump, tasty bodies. But bird-kind can be hard on us too, and not just in Hitchcock films.
For the jet-set, birds pose a deadly threat: Flying into an engine during takeoff or landing, they can send a plane into a fatal plunge. Airlines paint eyes on the engines because apparently birds find a 150,000-pound jetliner scarier if it's looking at them. But they don't always fall for that.
So in a move to make flying a little less fretful for people, San Jose leaders this week will allow airport staffers more ammo in their battle against the birds. For real. The proposed ordinance modification will let airport staffers and contracted biologists shoot at birds to clear them from the airfield.
OK, they plan to fire blanks mostly, just to scare them off. But they'll have permission to load birdshot if their feathered foes don't get the flock out.
"At some point," said Mineta San Jose International Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes, "all those other measures aren't enough."
Actually, airport staffers have already done this. But current city law only lets cops and military types fire guns at the airport, so they want the City Council to approve the change.
"It kind of clears it up administratively so we're in compliance with the municipal code," said Airport Manager Curt Eikerman.
For the record, this is standard stuff in the airport business. San Francisco and Oakland airports also let their staffers and biologists shoot at the birds. And San Jose doesn't have all the airport's avian residents in its sights: Efforts to protect burrowing owls on the airfield will continue.
"They are a ground-dwelling creature," Eikerman said, "and don't pose a threat to aircraft."
But the bird-strike concern is real. In June, seagulls at San Jose airport struck a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 during landing, bending seven engine fan blades that cost $50,000 to repair. In February 2009, a United Airlines Boeing 757 had to abort takeoff in San Jose after striking several gulls and damaging both engines.
San Jose has reported 180 bird strikes since 2009, and the Federal Aviation Administration has decreed that shotguns should be part of the airport's wildlife hazard management plan.
No word yet whether the airport plans to market seagull as an alternative to turkey.
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.