Meet Piper, a dog helping protect planes from bird strikes

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The sharpest air traffic controller we've ever seen is good under pressure, thinks on his feet, and reacts quickly.

And he's only eight years old.

"Well I don't think there's any denying it -- he's got the cool factor down to a T," said Brian Edwards, Piper's partner.

That cool factor is easy to spot in pictures, moments of social media gold, earning Piper the airport K9 a global following.

The 8-year-old border collie sits tight on the tarmac with the Coast Guard hovering only feet away, or as the Blue Angels taxi by, but the goggles and ear guards he wears aren't just a photo op.


Piper on the runway as a Blue Angel taxi's by.

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He's on the job.

Piper protects aircraft at the Traverse City, Michigan airport from birds and other wildlife.

Here he hones in on geese near the main runway, and they take off as he chases after them.


Piper chases geese away near the tarmac.

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Plane bird strikes can be catastrophic.

Coast Guard Pilot Lt. Commander Charlie Wilson is one of Piper's biggest fans.

"We've got engine inlets right here in the aircraft where if a bird gets sucked in to an engine especially at a critical phase of flight, that engine is lost," Wilson said. "Birds have a devastating effect on aircraft and keeping them flying."

In Piper's two years on the job, they are already noticing a difference.

"I've been in a number of airports, they usually shotgun blanks," said Wilson. "Birds get used to that, they know, hey, it's just a sound, nothing's going to happen, but when you deploy a dog that actually chases after them and they have that fight or flight instinct, they go running, and they remember that."



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Brian Edwards, Piper's partner, has had the dog for three years.

"I get to work with my best friend every day," he said.

Despite not being previously trained, it only took this old dog about a year to get comfortable on the tarmac.

"The airport is his home, I have to drag him out of here whenever we leave," said Edwards.

It was Edwards idea to post pictures on Instagram, now Piper has about 10,000 more followers than Traverse City has residents.

He's become the mascot for the airport.

"Absolutely he has, I think he's become the mascot for the whole town," said airport director Kevin Kline.

That's nothing to shake a stick at -- and honestly, Piper would rather you throw it.