Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Pandal laser beams in Kolkata pose risk for pilots

Use of laser strobes at festivals and functions held on the eastern and north-eastern fringes of the city has alarmed airlines with pilots warning of an impending mishap if the powerful beam enters the cockpit and blinds the crew during the crucial landing phase. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) had written to the Biddhannagar police commissioner on August 1, alerting them about the hazard and urging action to regulate the use, particularly in touchdown and takeoff zones on either side of the runway .
But the situation has worsened with lasers being used in Durga Puja and Kali Puja and at soirees organised by puja committees. Some party venues, including hotels located along the EM Bypass, have also been identified as problem zones where laser beams are used. The problem was first reported in the wee hours of July 6when the pilot and co-pilot of a Qatar Airways flight from Doha were nearly blinded by a powerful strobe of green laser. Though they managed to recover in time to land safely, it triggered alarm in the air traffic control.
"The incident happened barely 2 nautical miles or barely a minute before touchdown. The pilot complained that a green laser beam was flashed towards the cockpit as he was in the final landing sequence from the Barasat side. Aiming a laser at an aircraft cockpit can pose a significant hazard to a pilot, especially during the critical phases of flight like taking off and approaching to land," said AAI general manager (air traffic management-Kolkata airport) Barun Kumar Sarkar. When a laser light is trained on the windshield of an aircraft, it instantly turns opaque green, causing tempora rily blindness. The after-imaging or blurred vision will diminish slowly but there are cases in which it has caused retinal damage.
Captain Sarvesh Gupta, chairman of Airli ne Operators' Committee at Kolkata airport and a captain with Jet Airways, said fellow pilots had reported sighting laser beams from places like Nalban, PC Chandra Gardens and Mirania Boating Complex next to Science City .
01/11/16 Subhro Niyogi/The Times Of India