With Kerala police groping in the dark about the laser beam projected into the cockpit of an Air India Express aircraft three days ago, the probe is likely to be handed over to a central agency. The director general of civil aviation has taken a serious note of the incident and directed the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security to look into it.
The pilot of Air India Express Kozhikkode-Dubai flight had alerted the Kozhikode control room on Wednesday night about the incident that could have posed a serious threat to the safety of passenger aircraft. Sources in the Civil Aviation Ministry said this is the first time such an incident is being reported from the country. Though a formal complaint was filed on Thursday incident came to light only after police began a formal investigation.
Last month a Virgin Atlantic flight (London to New York) was called back to Heathrow airport after a laser beam was shone into the cockpit. Besides posing medical problem to the cockpit staff and distract their attention dangerous weapons can be directed against the aircraft with the aid of laser beams, say aviation experts. Laser projection is normally prohibited near air routes.
Delhi Police also recently banned the use of laser lights around the airport in the national capital after the Air Traffic Control reported numerous incidents of distraction of pilots by laser beam while they approached the runway to land.
According to initial investigation the aircraft was flying around 3000-ft high when laser beams were projected on it. The beam had originated from the coastal area between Parappanangadi and Beypore, about 15 kms away from Kozhikode international airport.
‘We have scanned the area. But we have limitation in probing such a case that needs some specialization. We are not sure whether it was just a prank or a deliberate attempt to cause some damage,” a senior police officer of north Kerala said. The police have also started an awareness drive in the area to prevent such incidents. Since local police do not have an expertise to probe the case it has asked higher authorities to hand over the case to a competent agency.
In West frequented with beam attacks pilots had sought that laser-contained gadgets should be included in the offensive weapons category. Mainly three hazards are being attributed to laser pointers - distraction, glare and flash blindness to cockpit staff and eye damage. According to experts laser beams during take-off and touch-down are critical to the safety of aircraft.