Mumbai: Pilots complain of strobe lights flashed at landing aircraft

Latest incident occurred on Wednesday around 8.20 pm, when a miscreant flashed a strobe light at an IndiGo aircraft from the slum pocket of Saki Naka surrounding the airport

The incidents of miscreants from the slum pockets surrounding the airport flashing long-range strobe lights at landing aircraft are giving airport authorities sleepless nights. Sources from the airport — domestic and international — claim at least one such incident is being reported on a monthly-basis for the last one year.

Aviation experts claim strobe lights can blind the pilots temporarily, resulting in a catastrophe. Pic for representation/ Thinkstock
Aviation experts claim strobe lights can blind the pilots temporarily, resulting in a catastrophe. Pic for representation/ Thinkstock

The latest occurred on Wednesday around 8.20 pm after the pilot of the IndiGo flight 6E483 (Chandigarh-Chennai via Mumbai) reported to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower about a strobe light being flashed at the aircraft that was three miles from the runway and descending to land.

As per the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the ATC informed the MIAL security officers about the incident. Later, the security officers informed the Saki Naka police station. A MIAL official said, “As the safety of the aircraft was involved, the pilot notified that he was facing issues while landing. The local police was immediately intimated so that the culprits could be held at the earliest.”

Cop speak
Senior Inspector A Dharmadhikari from Saki Naka police station said, “We sent two wireless vans to the area, but no one suspicious could be seen. We receive at least one such call every month from the airport officials. However, it is a difficult task to trace and nab the culprits despite setting up a chowkie on the hillock near the airport and stationing an armed guard inside.”

Expert speak
Commenting on possible adverse effects of strobe lights being flashed at aircraft, aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganathan said, “Strobe lights can temporarily blind a pilot. This could prove detrimental for passengers’ safety.”

Godfrey Pimenta, advocate and spearhead of Watchdog Foundation, said, “Though the person flashing a strobe light at an aircraft is guilty of public nuisance and jeopardising the lives of passengers onboard, there is no specific section or act that enables the local police to charge the miscreants.”

Previous incidents
>> In August this year, the pilot of Jet Airways flight 9W-2386 (Indore-Mumbai) alerted the ATC about while-coloured lights being flashed at the aircraft. This incident also occurred at a time when the aircraft was approaching the runway for landing

>> In April 2014, kids from the slums pockets of Jari Mari were reprimanded for flashing strobe lights at landing aircraft. The action was initiated after complaints from pilots were forwarded to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on April 9

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