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  November 2005
Boating Magazine

by Phil Scott

[In its November 2005 issue, Boating Magazine conducted the following interview with David Mann, Manager of Batten International Airport in Racine, Wisconsin. Airports worldwide have long struggled with the problem of migratory birds, primarily Canadian geese, endangering aircraft. From 1990 to 2004, more than 56,000 bird-aircraft strikes occurred; bird/wildlife strikes cost commercial and military aviation more than $1 billion a year.

Many airports spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on bird mitigation efforts, including methods such as frightening birds with model airplanes, dogs, amplified recordings of birds in distress, fireworks, propane cannons, flashing lights and laser-beam guns.

Unlike other airports, Batten International has the distinction of discovering a solution that works – a Neoteric hovercraft – for a one-time cost of around $10,000 rather than hundreds of thousands.]

David Mann with bird mitigation Neoteric hovercraft
Airport Manager David Mann with Batten International Airport's bird-mitigating Neoteric hovercraft

How 'bout them geese?
Yeah. We had one aircraft that took out five of them. It was raining goose parts all over.

Birds and airplanes don't mix?
No way. A golf course nearby used dogs to chase the geese, and they ended up at a flooded quarry near us. The geese liked it so much, they stayed.

How many are we talking about?
Maybe four or five thousand geese.

That's a lot of birds.
And a lot of bird droppings.

So what did you do?
We did some research and found out that we needed a hovercraft. It can go on land, ice, or water to chase the geese.

Wait – you chase geese with a hovercraft?
Yeah. Works great.

How did you justify buying one to some government agency?
This is a private airport, so I can tell the commissioners to take a walk.

What's it cost?
About $10,500, including a trailer.

Does this mighty vessel have a name?
Goose-Getter. I'm joking. No. It's a Neoteric hovercraft, about 10' long, with a 56-hp snowmobile engine. It goes about 45 mph forward, 35 backward.

Do you ever take it out for grins?
Yeah – it's fun. But it's not something you can just get in and go. They gave us an eight-hour training course. It's harder than it looks. It's part motorcycle, airplane, snowmobile, and, of course, boat.

Any hovercraft wisdom you'd care to impart?
It blows up a lot of whatever it's sitting on, so we wear snowmobile suits or overalls. You do not want to get into this thing with normal clothing on.


Read the in-depth article Hovercraft eliminates aviation threat

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