Airport warning over Chinese lanterns

With Chinese New Year approaching (3rd February) Manchester Airport bosses have issued a warning over the potential threat Chinese lanterns can cause to aircraft.

People living under the flight path of the airport are being urged not to use the lanterns as they could bring down a plane due to how unguided and wind dependent they are. Over 60 lantern remnants were found on the runway over the course of the festive season.

The lanterns, which can reach heights of around one mile up into the sky and are made of paper and metal, can cause a very real safety risk to aircraft if the lanterns get sucked into the aircraft’s engine.

Some European countries, including Austria and Germany, have already banned the lanterns but there are currently no restrictions in force in Britain.

Tim McDermott, Manchester Airport’s Operations Director, said: “Chinese lanterns are becoming more and more popular but they are completely unguided and wind dependent and even the ones made out of bamboo contain metal parts.

“Although we haven’t had any reported incidents at the airport, given their popularity particularly at this time of year it is a risk we would like people to be aware of and think through the location from where they release lanterns. You don’t need to be an engine specialist to know that a piece of metal getting into an aircraft engine can’t be good news.

“Unlike fireworks, nobody actually knows what range and height they can manage and pilots say they have seen them at several thousand feet. Fireworks and lanterns can dazzle a pilot at a critical moment in the flight. It is not our intention to be party poopers but we have to protect the safety of passengers, aircraft and our neighbours.”

Mark Swan, Director of Airspace Policy at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said: “Unfortunately, sky lanterns do pose a very real safety risk to aircraft. They can be ingested into the engines of airborne aircraft and also become debris on runways. We urge anyone releasing lanterns to think carefully about the consequences to aviation and if necessary to contact local airports well in advance to warn them of the impending release.”

Wildlife experts have also previously asked people to think twice before using lanterns after reports they have been ingested by animals.

Published on: 31/01/2011 10:08:32