Monday, August 25, 2014

“No Fly Zone”

In general this hasn’t been a good year for the field of aviation. Starting from Flight 370, then Flight 17, then a couple of crashes in Brazil and Iraq, it’s been bad news one after the other. Causes of the afore-mentioned tragedies vary, with the exception of “MH370” which basically disappeared. Hence it’s rather coincidental that I came to hear an aviation-related mobile announcement in my neighborhood of Boralesgamuwa a fortnight ago. A van was airing a notice which gave a meaning similar to the following:

“We request you to avoid flying any kites in this area as it may cause a threat to aircrafts and passengers onboard.”

A fair enough request, given that the Ratmalana Airport is only about 2km away. But this was the first time I heard such a statement from the authorities. So I did some searching to see if kites are that hazardous as portrayed. And was surprised with the first article I stumbled upon. Apparently a nylon thread seemed to be the cause of a helicopter crash in the Philippines which killed two crew members and seven people on the ground! An important piece of information in that article is regarding the regulations and distance prohibiting kite-flying. I wondered if there were similar regulations in our country as well. Therefore I phoned the airport and inquired. According to the officer who answered me, there were no such specific laws or regulations which prohibited the leisure-time activity, but they will request the relevant local police stations to take action to clear the “sky paths” if needed. When I inquired of the height and distance from the airport that might be acceptable to fly a kite, he didn’t give any numbers. But explained to me how aeroplanes and low-flying helicopters encounter difficulties while approaching or departing the airport. August being the kite-season was a reason for the announcement to go out.

Further searching on regulations, I came across a couple: Hong Kong and the US. Notice the height/distance factors which are clearly mentioned and also the word “balloon” in the FAA page. The ATC of Netherlands has a more detailed page with maps highlighting prohibited areas in different colors along with a descriptive legend. May be our local authorities also should improve on this aspect. Enact regulations if there aren’t any and publish them on the official websites.

Still whatever the law may be, we as responsible and thoughtful citizens need to think of this stuff pretty seriously. And if you or your child needs to fly a kite, Galle Face Green is always there.☺