Sunday, November 26, 2017

AAI warns about grave airline threat from pretty sky lanterns

Kolkata: The hundreds of sky lanterns that lit up the night sky during Diwali and Kali Puja - and which, again, will no doubt make a comeback during Christmas-New Year - might have made for a pretty sight, but they were a source of horror for airline pilots, who shuddered at the thought of what would happen if the wind carried them into their flight path.
The lanterns, in fact, are not just released during festive seasons. They are even lit during weddings and birthday celebrations.
"The sky lanterns appear harmless, but can be a major hazard for flights that are either landing or taking off. If the lanterns get sucked into aircraft engine, the thin wires that form the structure can cause major damage to the engine core," said veteran captain Sarvesh Gupta, who chairs the airlines operators' committee at Kolkata airport.
Bloggers and Instagrammers had organised mass events for release of sky lanterns from different parts of the city to create great photo-ops. Alarmed at the increasing number of sky lanterns in and around Dum Dum where arriving and departing planes fly at low altitude, pilots have reported the matter to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) as well as the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), terming the lanterns foreign object debris (FOD) that pose a threat to flight safety.
The matter figured prominently at the latest environment committee meeting at Kolkata airport with airlines and AAI officials asking the Bidhannagar Commissionerate to step in and curb the release of sky lanterns within 18.5km of the airport. At this distance, flights coming in to land at Kolkata descended to 3,000ft, explained AAI general manager (air traffic management) B K Sarkar. Sky lanterns rise to a height of around 3,000ft.
26/11/17 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India