Valley Drought 2014: Navy Jets Could Crash - KMPH FOX 26 | Central San Joaquin Valley News Source

Valley Drought 2014: Navy Jets Could Crash

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LEMOORE, Calif. (KMPH) -

It's well known that "Valley Drought 2014" is taking a toll on farmers. However, the lack of water is creating a potentially deadly situation for pilots at "Naval Air Station Lemoore".

"If it's a big bird and it is real close, it can shake you up pretty badly." says Aviation Safety Officer Lt. Kevin Teague, "Especially, if you see them hit the actual aircraft.

Lt. Kevin Teague flies helicopters. He's seen hawks and other big birds come too close for comfort.

"We're talking raptors between 20 and 40 pounds," adds the helicopter pilot, "Think Thanksgiving turkey size."

Part of the problem is farm land around the naval base is dry and cracked because there's no water. The 'Naval Air Station' owns 12,000 acres of farmland around the base. Farmers that lease the land grow crops that don't attract birds, but the lands are going fallow because of the drought.

"There's no one silver bullet, there's no one thing you can do to fix this problem," says Lt. Teague.

Statistics from the 'Naval Air Station' show that in 2011 when water allocation was 80%, there were 5 bird strikes. In 2013 when the base only received a 20% allocation of water, there were 44 bird strikes.

"If you have the emergency, if a bird gets sucked into an engine, it can get very interesting, very quickly," says Lt. Teague, "It can cause the pilot to swerve and it's a very big hazard for us."

If a bird does bring one of the base's F–18's down, not only can it be deadly, but that bird can destroy a jet that costs millions of dollars to make.

There's no way to get rid of the birds. The best solution is to shoo them away or hope that it rains.

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