It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane: Adventures in Flying Across Africa

My Life Aquatic

I was recently sitting on a runway in West Africa, bound for Addis Ababa, when:

“We apologize for the delay, however our Bird Alarm on this runway is not working.”

I look up from my laminated What To Do In An Emergency card from the seat-back pocket and turn to the British woman next to me. I don’t know what a ‘bird alarm’ is – do you? She shakes her head. Her name is Annie.

The pilot’s voice returns with an explanation: because there are some birds at the end of the runway, they need this alarm to scare them away before the plane takes off. If the plane takes off and scares the birds, then the birds might fly, too. If one of these birds were to get caught in the engine, well, it wouldn’t be good. We really need the alarm to work.

“And these are some pretty…

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