Laser, lantern ban near Calcutta airport

Police cite aviation safety for festive restriction

By Snehal Sengupta in Calcutta
  • Published 30.10.18, 2:31 AM
  • Updated 30.10.18, 2:31 AM
  • a min read
  •  
A sky lantern being released on Diwali night last year. Agencies

Laser lights and sky lanterns have been banned within a radius of 10km from the airport ahead of Diwali and the party season on grounds of aviation safety.

A notification issued by Bidhannagar City Police on Monday cited difficulties faced by pilots of advancing aircraft as the reason for clamping a ban on laser lights.

Beams of light falling on aircraft can be blinding for pilots and induce serious mistakes, according to aviation experts.

Sky lanterns (phanush), a traditional feature of Diwali in this part of the world, has been classified as a fire hazard.

“It appears that sky lanterns can cause fire incidents with serious consequences within the airport premises as oil companies have fuel storage depots there. Sky lanterns can also cause catastrophic accidents if they are sucked in by aircraft engines,” states the notification signed by police commissioner Gyanwant Singh.

The North 24-Parganas administration will help the police implement the ban.

“Flouting the ban will make the offender liable for arrest under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code,” Amit Javalgi, the deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), said.

The district magistrate of North 24-Parganas, Antara Acharya, said the administration had received a letter from the general manager of air traffic management in Calcutta about sky lanterns posing a threat to aviation safety.

The letter also mentions the use of powerful laser lights outdoors and how they affect pilots of aircraft landing at or taking off from the airport. Laser lights are a bigger problem when planes have to land at the southern end of the runway during winter to avoid tailwinds from the north.

“To align an aircraft landing from the south with the runway, a pilot has to fly over Salt Lake and New Town. Eco Park in New Town often hosts events where laser lights are used. Banquet halls and hotels lining VIP Road and Jessore Road also host parties in winter that feature laser shows, an officer in the Bidhannagar commissionerate said.

“Laser lights can be a serious distraction for pilots while landing or taking off. They can cause temporary impairment of vision,” said Captain Sarvesh Gupta, chairman of the airline operators’ committee, Calcutta.

Javalgi said awareness programmes would be organised to inform people about the reasons behind the ban on sky lanterns and laser lights.