Willcox from the Air

Willcox and Willcox Playa from an American Airlines flight in 2009

WILLCOX — If a Boeing spacecraft lands in the Willcox Playa, what will happen to the wildlife and bird species?

Multiple bird species make the Willcox Playa their home over the course of a year, including shorebirds, the Swainson’s hawk, songbirds, black-necked stilts and sandhill cranes.

Last Wednesday, Willcox residents listened to a presentation in the Willcox Community Center about Boeing’s spacecraft: the Starliner. Boeing Technical Lead Marty Linde gave a presentation on the Starliner, its possible landing area in the Willcox Playa and what it entails.

After the meeting, the Range News spoke to Homer Hansen, one of the leaders of the Wings Over Willcox planning committee about how the spaceship may impact playa birds.

“On the birds’ side, you have to wonder how fast that frisbee (the heat shield) comes away from it while it’s falling,” Hansen said. “The parachutes create a question, too, because the chutes come down very slowly. The cranes aren’t that fast; they could get trapped in the chutes. In December, that’s an area where cranes could be.”

Hansen said that if the regular landing site is in October or June, that would be best for the migrating cranes because many of them will not be in the area at the time. However, in December, the cranes will be present on the Willcox Playa, upping the chances of a mishap.

The Range News spoke to Linde after the meeting Wednesday, and Linde reiterated that the playa would be left in the same condition as it was found before the landing. There will be no installations or buildings placed on the playa, and all the parachutes will be cleared from the area after landing.

Load comments