Brisbane Airport (BNE) has reported that it was able to succeed in its long-running battle with wasp reduction just days after an investigative safety hazard report in relation to wasp management was released.

Wasp nesting has long been a problem for BNE airport, where wasps are known to block pitot tubes of aircraft. According to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), at least four of the 15 incidents recorded at Brisbane Airport between 2008 and 2018 where one of the pitot probes had a partial or total blockage had been attributed to insect nests. 

Pitot tubes are located in the front of an aircraft, and measure how fast air is moving through the plane. When a pitot tube is blocked, it can cause the airspeed indicator to register an increase in airspeed when the aircraft climbs, even though actual airspeed is constant. 

Placing covers over the pitot tubes is one of the ways that BNE airport has dealt with the wasp nesting issue. 

READ MORE:
 
Attracted by aircraft probes, a species of wasp could become a danger for Australian aviation.
 

Serious safety issues

On August 19, 2022, the ATSB released an investigative report involving a Singapore Airlines A350 getting ready for pushback to depart for Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) from BNE, where the pitot tube cover was not removed. The potential disaster was averted when an eagle-eyed airport refueler noticed and alerted a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer. 

In March 2022, the ATSB also reported that a 2018 Malaysia Airlines A330 aircraft took off from BNE to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) with the covers left on three of the aircraft’s pitot tubes. The flight crew managed to conduct an approach and landing back in BNE, damaging the landing gear doors. 

With two serious safety incident reports from the ATSB released within months, BNE airport has released a statement showing how it had achieved success in managing its wasp nesting issue. 

Specifically, BNE said that through the implementation of a science-based Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) program, it has seen a 64% reduction in wasp activity at the domestic and international terminals after treatment, and a 94% reduction in wasp food sources.

“The research into these wasps being done by Brisbane Airport is helping airports around the world,” Peter Dunlop, head of airside operations at Brisbane Airport said. 

Dunlop added: “We’ve also suggested to aircraft manufacturers they investigate design changes to make components less attractive to nesting wasps,”  
 

READ MORE:
 
Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-300, registered as 9M-MTK, was performing flight MH-134 from Brisbane Airport (BNE),  Australia to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL), Malaysia on July 18, 2018, when soon after a takeoff flight crew realized airspeed indicators were failing. The plane turned back and landed safely in Brisbane.