Personnel from six police stations in the areas around the Mumbai airport have an unusual task to perform later this week. The Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) has written to the Mumbai police to keep a check on kites being flown in the vicinity of the airport during Makar Sankranti as they are a potential threat to flight operations.
The festival, which falls on January 15, marks the beginning of the harvest season and is celebrated by flying kites and lanterns.
“As the day of Makar Sankranti draws near, kite- and lantern-flying activity is expected in the vicinity of the airport. Flying of kites poses danger to aircraft as it can easily get ingested in the engines. The risk is higher during take-off, landing and when aircraft fly at lower altitudes,” states the MIAL letter, which was sent on January 8.
The letter further states that stray cases of kite flying and bursting of crackers have been reported despite an order issued by the police last month. The airport operator also said laser beams used during the festival are a matter of concern. For instance, on December 29, a city-bound flight of Dutch carrier KLM Airlines reported a laser light being flashed on its approach path to the main runway at the airport.
In 2014, kites and hot air balloons had disrupted flight movement at the airport for about an hour on Makar Sankranti. According to records maintained by the Mumbai air traffic control (ATC), at least five city-bound flights were forced to abort landing at the last minute after a pilot spotted kites and balloons on the runway.
“The exercise of removing foreign objects from the airstrip and declaring it safe for use takes about 20-30 minutes. But if a kite lands on the runway soon after operations are resumed, the same exercise has to be repeated all over again,” said a senior ATC official.
Deputy commissioner of police Virendra Mishra said, “An order from the commissioner’s office has been issued on January 6 to all police stations concerned… We are taking all the precautions and will keep an eye on the areas near the airport.”