RAWALPINDI: Islamabad airport authorities have asked the police to ban drone activities around the runway after one came dangerously close to an aircraft.
The directives were issued after a UN plane en route from Kabul on January 16 encountered a drone flying at an altitude of about 3,400 feet and eight nautical miles from the runway.
In his notification to the police and district administration, the airport manager said that the UN B-190 aircraft with flight number UN-355H was approaching at around 2:30 pm when it observed the drone flying at an altitude of approximately 3,400 feet while the aircraft’s altitude was 3,700 feet. .
According to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA), the area where the drone was flying was identified as Phase VIII of Bahria town in Rawalpindi.
Islamabad International Airport Chief Operating Officer Syed Aftab Ali Shah Gilani sought the help of the Regional Police Officer (RPO) and Commissioner Rawalpindi after the second flight hazard complaint was received within a month.
Islamabad Airport writes to police to curb drone flights in funnel areas
On January 8, the pilot of a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Dubai reported that a green laser light was directed at an aircraft scheduled to land on Runway 28L, six NM from the airport.
The airport’s director of operations said drones not only pose a threat of collision with aircraft, but also cause security concerns if they are equipped with tracking devices or improvised explosive devices.
The Rawalpindi police chief has been asked to step up patrolling and combing operations to detect trespassers in the funnel areas that extend from each end of the runway used by planes to land and take off.
The COO also suggested enforcement of Section 144 on drone activities around the airport.
The PCAA has also asked the RPO Rawalpindi to take action against such activities that could lead to a tragic accident.
According to aviation experts, laser lights and drones were among the main air safety risks for civil aviation operations.
In August 2021, security agencies were alerted and a search operation was launched after a drone-like device was spotted in Banigala and Bhara Kahu areas of Islamabad. The device was seen in the sky around the Prime Minister’s residence and other important buildings in the area.
This was not the first time that an unauthorized drone flight had alerted the authorities.
On November 22, a remote-controlled drone crashed at the Orange Line train terminal in Thokar Niaz Beg, prompting an emergency response from police and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) amid reports that Chinese engineers were working on the project.
Drones themselves do not only pose a threat to aircraft around airports. In the past years, several commercial aircraft landing and taking off in Pakistan have met with or avoided accidents near airports after encountering various hazards.
The most common of the dangers are when birds strike the plane.
In 2022, the PCAA said it was considering the procurement of bird repellent systems to be installed at major airports to prevent bird activity. A total of 662 incidents were reported from 2018 to May 2022, according to the PCAA. Of the 662 aircraft, significant damage was caused to six aircraft, minor damage was caused to 94 aircraft and no damage was caused to 562 aircraft. In 2018, 116 bird strikes were reported through May, 165 in 2019, 141 in 2020, 142 in 2021 and 48 in 2022.