Metro Morning

Meet Juliet, the falcon making Pearson Airport a little safer

Meet Juliet: One of more than 30 birds of prey employed by the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to keep the airspace clear surrounding runways.

Pearson airport is home to more than 30 birds of prey who make sure airspace is clear for planes

Juliet is a gyr-saker falcon, a hybrid species that is used at Toronto's Pearson Airport to keep birds away from an airplane's flight path. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

In 2009, a US Airways flight took off from La Guardia Airport in New York City. Three minutes later, it lost all engine power and was forced to turn back, landing on the Hudson River.

The cause of the power failure? A flock of Canada geese.

Now a famous story, and the subject of a Hollywood film The Miracle on the Hudson is perhaps the most dramatic case of birds bringing down an airplane.

That's why airports in Canada are required to have tools in place to keep the birds away.

Darren says he named the falcon Juliet because he's a big fan of Shakespeare. The pair have been together for eight years. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

Enter Juliet, the falcon. She's one of more than 30 birds of prey, including falcons, hawks and a bald eagle named Ivan, that work to keep the airspace surrounding Pearson Airport clear.

There are about two bird strikes for every 10,000 movements by planes at the airport, says Darren Smith, Juliet's trainer.

"There's a real biodiversity there and our job is to try and mitigate the risk that airplanes pose to wildlife and that conversely wildlife would pose to the airplanes and the safety of the travelling public," said Smith. 

That's accomplished by sending Juliet into the air, chasing a lure operated by Smith, scaring away other animals. 

Falcon Environmental Services trains the birds in Alexandria, Ont., and they are used at airports in Canada and the U.S. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

"They see a hunting falcon and they don't care what she's chasing right now, they don't want to be the thing that she goes after next." 

The birds have been used by the Greater Toronto Airport Authority to keep flight crews, and passengers safe for over 20 years. 

"It's incredibly effective," says Smith. 

Metro Morning