Floating balloons spotted over Mumbai airport's runway again

Jan 15, 2016, 08:31 IST | Neha LM Tripathi

Two blue balloons were spotted hovering over Mumbai airport’s runway yesterday; Indian Meteorological Department denied any role in the balloon sighting

Apart from the usual issues, Mumbai airport yesterday had to worry about one more subject — floating balloons over the main runway. This is the third time balloons have been seen over the runway area. Concerned with these sightings that may disrupt air traffic, airport officials complained that the activities are increasingly getting popular with people and it needs to be dealt with appropriately.

Hang on
An Air India flight AI616 on Thursday was asked to do a go-around, after the Mumbai Air Traffic Control (ATC) spotted two blue balloons over runway number 27. The ATC asked the plane to wait for the instructions before landing. The routine flight departs from Hyderabad at 8.15 am and lands in Mumbai around 9.45 am. The plane had to go-around for 11 minutes, as the runway was closed for four minutes for inspection purpose.

Also Read: Mystery of UFOs over Mumbai airport solved, two held for releasing balloons

“The incident took place at around 10 am when two blue-coloured balloons were spotted 100 feet above the runway 27. These balloons had two flags at their tips” an ATC official said.

Weatherman speaks
The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) also releases balloons routinely to collect weather data.

However, a senior IMD official told mid-day, “We release balloons to determine the wind direction, which is of utmost importance to us. Every day, we release a small weather balloon at 10.30 am. But, our balloons are either red or white in colour. The blue-coloured balloons can never be ours.”

Read Story: Now, IMD's weather balloon sparks panic at Mumbai airport

As soon as the news reached other departments, the security jeep immediately got into action and Saki Naka and Vakola police stations started their investigation.

“Various types of flying lantern and balloons are being sold at the traffic signals these days. This may be one of the reasons for the rise in the frequency of balloon sightings at the airport area, which needs to be dealt with strictly,” a senior ATC official said.

No flying!
As per Indian Aviation rules, flying instruments like paragliders, hot balloons, drones, sky lanterns, etc are not allowed in the approach path of airport’s runway, which is approximately about 15.5 degrees on each side of the centre of runway and up to an altitude of around 2,700 feet.

Previous incidents

November 3: An ATC official noticed a white balloon hovering over the airfield. This balloon was seen near the Air India hangar following which officers at the ATC panicked. After observing the object at a critically lower level (balloons are usually not observed at such a low level), ATC officials then got in touch with IMD to check if they were aware of this balloon. It was only at around 5.22 pm that the ATC and airport police gave clarity regarding the situation and ensured that the balloon would not harm the movement of aircraft.

May 2015: The Mumbai police had a hectic few days after five balloons were seen floating near the airport. They had later been identified as advertising balloons. The balloons, which were mistaken for UFOs, triggered probes by multiple agencies and immense media speculation. It was later revealed that the balloons were released on behalf of a diamond export company as a marketing gimmick during a cricket match held that day in Kalina.

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