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Old 1st Nov 2004, 10:52
  #46 (permalink)  
Prof. Airport Engineer
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Australia (mostly)
Posts: 726
Kangaroos can be a real nuisance, and they are big enough to do a lot of damage if you hit them at speed.

The problem is worse in the dry season because an airport is one of the few places in rural areas where there is still some grass, and hungry kangaroos try to make the most of it. In Oz, airport operators are required to minimise the risk of planes hitting kangaroos or other animals. The responsibility is still on pilots to make sure there are no kangaroos on the strip before they land, but at night-time that is pretty hard to do. So an airport has to shoot problem kangaroos, and patrol the runway before regular services land and take off.

I was inspecting Meekatharra Airport one year (in Western Australia). The grass at the terminal was lovingly watered by the groundsman and it was the only green patch for hundreds of kilometres. It was especially dry that year, and the kangaroos were coming from all over to eat the airport grass. A couple of aircraft hit kangaroos, and the previous night, an RFDS plane had belted one and suffered quite a bit of damage. So I was elected to go roo-shooting that night. It might have been better not to have whiled away the first part of the evening in the pub beforehand, but that is being wise after the event.

After the pub, we weaved our way back to the airport in the airport inspector's car, which was fitted with a full length roof rack for carrying survey gear. I sat on the roof rack, with the shotgun, while the inspector drove the car all over the airport trying to find kangaroos. We eventually flushed a couple out, and started to chase them. The car was bouncing up and down like crazy as we drove through the scrub, out across the runway, and into the scrub on the other side. I was hanging onto the roof rack with one hand, and the shotgun with the other as we raced through the night with the only illumination being the car's headlights. Took aim, and let fly with both barrels - missed - reloaded and fired - missed again. Too much movement and probably too much beer. The car was catching up to the kangaroos, and although they jumped faster and faster, we drove faster and faster.

By now the car was literally on the tail of the kangaroos and their tails were hitting the front bumper as they jumped. The airport inspector was yelling at me to shoot again and shoot straighter, I was trying to hold on to the car and reload at the same time, the car was bouncing and down as we roared around and over the runway again, and I only just managed to aim down at the kangaroo which was about a metre in front of me by now, and then I fired. Big blast and crash. I had shot the top of the radiator off the car (blast), the kangaroo got an enormous fright at the noise and stopped so we promptly ran into it with the car and killed it (crash), and of course that smashed the rest of the front of the car.

Thank goodness we hit the kangaroo. It was lot easier to explain front-end repairs to the car due to hitting a kangaroo, then it would have been to explain the repairs because I had shot the front of the car off. Gave the kangaroo carcase to the panel beater as dog-meat, in exchange for filling out the paperwork obligingly . . .
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