Polar fox threatens flight safety on Svalbard | Polarjournal
In search of food, a polar fox has found a way to the airport grounds of Longyearbyen and has since made air traffic unsafe and puts itself in great danger. Photo: Michael Wenger

If you travel to Svalbard by plane, with a little luck you can already observe some animals before your first steps on Arctic soil – occasionally reindeer and rarely even polar foxes stay as fence guests around the “Svalbard Lufthavn”. A small polar fox, for its part, seems to have overused luck by endangering the safety of the arriving and departing aircraft on the wrong side of the fence.

A few years ago, a polar fox was hit by the nose wheel of a landing Dornier airplane. Carl Einar Ianssen, the managing director of Avinor Svalbard Airport, recalls: “The fox was left lying and we thought it was dead. But after a while he regained consciousness, got up and ran away.”
For some time now, airport staff have been watching a fox on the premises almost daily, and Ianssen believes it is the same fox as a few years ago. Just at the end of April, this fox prevented the landing of a plane before the fox could be expelled again.

Since the animal poses a safety risk to air traffic, Ianssen has applied to the Governor for a shooting license of the fox. He argues: “It is very difficult to keep control of where the fox is. There is a risk that he will collide with an aircraft without us being able to foresee the situation in time.”
The risk assessment shows that a collision with the fox would probably not harm the aircraft, but the consequences of an evasive maneuver could be very dramatic. “It can happen during take-off and landing that you reflexively decide to make an evasive maneuver or to cancel the landing or take-off. In the event of a stress maneuver, the aircraft would be exposed to a high load, which is a high risk. As a possible consequence, the plane could slip off the runway,” Ianssen believes.

The airport in Longyearbyen is actually secured with a fence. The small polar fox seems to have found a gap and has been living dangerously ever since. Photo: Julia Hager Foto: Julia Hager

The threat to flight safety by birds is a well-known problem, also on Svalbard, which is why permission was granted to capture geese there.

So far, Ianssen has not received a response to his request to shoot.

Source: Audun Bårdseth/Svalbardposten

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