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

Nov 04, 2015, 06:47 IST | Neha LM Tripathi

A balloon near the airfield at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) later turned out to be part of Indian Meteorological Department's (IMD) weather checking routine

After panicking over advertising balloons that floated near the airport in May, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) authorities have become cautious regarding any floating object noticed around or over the airfield. A balloon released by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) led to a similar panic last evening.

Read Story: Mystery shrouds UFOs seen hovering over Mumbai airport

It all began at around 5 pm, when 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 Air Traffic Control (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.

An IMD official said, “It was not only the ATC officials who got in touch with us. The airport police contacted us as well and were immediately intimated about the 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 aircrafts.

Rajeev Nair, director, IMD (Mumbai), said there was nothing new about the balloon that alerted airport authorities. Another IMD official explained, “The hydrogen balloon that was seen as a concern by the ATC Officials on Tuesday evening was the one that we release twice every day.

The balloon is released at 4.30 in the morning and at 4.30 in the evening. But today it was released by 4.45 pm and we received a call from the police and ATC officials at around 5.05pm. It is surprising and confusing to wonder why the ATC officials suspected it to be a probable harmful object.”

He added, “The balloon was released 20 minutes before it was observed near the Air India hangar. Due to the wind direction and low pressure, it did not fly up to the expected level and was hence probably visible to the authorities at a level that it usually does not fly at.”

Weather balloons
The hydrogen balloons released by the IMD travel around 30 to 35 kilometers towards the sky and are tracked by GPS. They are used to check weather conditions in the city, and disintegrate after traveling at an extended height above the sea level. These balloons consist of various instruments along with GPS that help in recording various weather parameters.

The 'UFO incident'
In May this year, 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. (Read full story)

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